Photo: George Sabo
“I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
On this day in 1970, Rose Mary Sabo-Brown lost her young 22-year old husband to the Vietnam War.
Now, 40-two years later, she’s meeting President Obama next week to receive Spc. 4 Leslie H. Sabo Jr.’s Medal of honour on his behalf.
What happened on May 10, 1970, is an incredible story — one of selfless sacrifice, sheer battle readiness, and true grit.
Sabo — a rifleman with 101st Airborne Division, or the “Screaming Eagles” — and members of his platoon were ambushed from all sides by a strong enemy force. Everything that happened next is extraordinary, as recounted by the Army:
Sabo charged the enemy position, killing several enemy Soldiers. He then assaulted an enemy flanking force, successfully drawing their fire away from friendly Soldiers and ultimately forcing the enemy to retreat. While securing a re-supply of ammunition, an enemy grenade landed nearby. Specialist Sabo picked it up, threw it, and shielded a wounded comrade with his own body — absorbing the brunt of the blast and saving his comrade’s life.
But it doesn’t end there. Sabo survived the blast and, although wounded, he went on to charge the enemy’s bunker while getting sprayed by machine gun fire. He closed the distance and — crawling at this point — got near enough to throw a grenade into the bunker.
“His indomitable courage and complete disregard for his own safety saved the lives of many of his platoon members,” said the Army.
The grenade Sabo threw hit its mark and silenced the enemy, but getting near enough to toss the explosive into the bunker meant he also perished in the blast.
Photo: U.S. Army
The Army’s news service says records of Sabo’s actions — near the Se San River in eastern Cambodia during the Vietnam War — were nearly lost in a forgotten file:
Sabo’s unit nominated him for the Medal of honour, but the paperwork was lost until Tony Mabb, a Vietnam veteran of the 101st Airborne Division and a writer for the “Screaming Eagle” association magazine came across a thick file on Sabo while on a research trip at the National Archives military repository in College Park, Maryland.
The defence Department was alerted and arrangements to reconsider Sabo for the Medal of honour were kick-started.
President Obama eventually phoned Mrs. Sabo-Brown saying her fallen husband would be posthumously given the country’s highest award for valor.
“It was a very emotional day,” she told Soldiers Magazine, “a very, very emotional day.”
Photo: U.S. Army
“I couldn’t even sleep that night,” she continued. “And when I did fall asleep finally and I woke up the next morning, I went, ‘Now wait a minute, did I dream this? Is it really real?'”Along with her late husband’s brother, she’s been invited to the White House on May 16 for the Medal of honour ceremony.
It will complete an amazing story, to which Mrs. Sabo-Brown has dedicated herself to preserving.
Her home near New Castle, Pennsylvania, has a small “museum of sorts” — in respect and tribute to Sabo and his comrades killed in action.
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