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Loaded with gear, infantryman Leslie Sabo poses with his M-60. (Photo: James Bemus)Leslie H. Sabo Jr., the nation’s newest Medal of Honor recipient, died in a Cambodian jungle on May 10, 1970, after a daylong battle in which he tried to save his fellow soldiers during a North Vietnamese ambush. The 22-year-old rifleman from Elwood City, Pa., distributed ammunition while under attack and threw himself onto a wounded comrade to shield him from a grenade blast. He then charged the enemy position, drawing fire away from his unit, killing several North Vietnamese soldiers and causing others to retreat. He got close enough to take out a bunker with a grenade, but the resulting blast killed him. The “Mother’s Day ambush” killed seven of Sabo’s 101st Airborne Division men.

President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Sabo’s widow, Rose Mary Sabo-Brown, in a White House ceremony on May 16, also attended by his brother, George Sabo, and about 50 men from his unit, Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment.

For years, many Bravo veterans had pushed for Sabo to be recognized. According to, one of Sabo’s fellow soldiers, who has since died, recommended him for the Medal of Honor shortly after the engagement, but the recommendation and the description of what Sabo did were lost. In 1999 Alton “Tony” Mabb, a Vietnam veteran of the 101st Airborne and writer for the division’s magazine, came across Sabo’s records at the National Archives while doing research on Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipients. Mabb contacted his Congresswoman, Corrine Brown, D-Fla., and started the process for Sabo’s recognition, which took 13 years to obtain.

Rose Mary Sabo-Brown and George Sabo accepted the Medal of Honor citation in a White House ceremony on May 16, 2012.“I couldn’t be more proud,” Sabo-Brown said in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m more happy that he’s getting it for all the guys.”

According to the Medal of Honor Society, of the approximately 2.1 million troops who served in Vietnam, 246 earned the Medal of Honor, 154 posthumously.

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