President Obama is awarding the nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, to a GI from Pennsylvania who was killed in the line of duty in 1970. Specialist Leslie H. Sabo Jr. is being awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for heroic action. Spec. Sabo was one of the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division. Sabo’s widow (Rose Mary Brown) and brother (George Sabo) are expected to receive the honor on his behalf.
Sabo reportedly tossed a grenade away that was thrown by the enemy and blocked a fellow soldier from the blast. Although he was injured by the grenade blast, he charged at an enemy bunker and blew it up with his own grenade. He killed several North Vietnamese soldiers and drew enemy fire from other members of his unit. He was also killed in the blast. According to the White House report of the incident, Sabo’s "indomitable courage and complete disregard for his own safety saved the lives of many of his platoon members." He died on May 10, 1970 in a battle that was to become known as the “Mother’s Day Ambush”.
George Koziol nominated Sabo’s heroic actions for the Medal of Honor in 1970, subsequently the paperwork was apparently lost. In 1999 a researcher for the 101st Airborne Division Association’s Magazine, Tony Mabb, found the lost paperwork while doing research in the National Archives. After verifying Sabo’s military records using the Freedom of Information Act, Mabb began searching for surviving veterans of the Se San battle where Sabo was killed.
Under normal circumstances, the nominations must be made within three years of the incident. Mabb contacted Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla. and asked her to intervene and explained that under the circumstances he was requesting an extension of the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations was extended so the case could be reviewed. In 2008 legislation was passed to eliminate the time limit and the Army recommended Sabo for the Medal of Honor. The request from the Army was forwarded to the White House in 2010.
The Congressional Medal of Honor Society reports that 3,458 medals have been awarded since 1863. Less than 90 recipients are currently living. There have been 19 double recipients.
"The Leslie I know would give his life to anybody," said his widow. "He would. He would give you the shirt off his back. That's the kind of man he was."