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War hero's widow to get house back

Posted By Diana Lynne On 02/24/2003 @ 5:30 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled

A war hero’s widow who lost her home through foreclosure will get to reclaim it thanks to the generosity of her husband’s fellow veterans, her neighbors and WorldNetDaily readers all across the country who heeded her plea for help.

Lois Leonard, 70, will reclaim her home of 35 years on Feb. 28, the anniversary of her husband’s
valorous death in Vietnam.

“I’m very thankful for the way things turned out,” Leonard told WorldNetDaily. “I’m thankful for all those who donated and I thank the Lord for touching their hearts.”

“Feb. 28 was probably the worst day of Mrs. Leonard’s life – she lost her husband of 17 years,”
Gary Littrelle, vice president of the Congressional Medal of Honor
Society, or MOH,
told WorldNetDaily. “I would love to make it one of the happiest days of her life.”

Littrelle is scheduled to join Bobby Randle, past commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, in Birmingham, Ala., Friday to
present Leonard with the deed to her home.

The two men orchestrated fund-raising efforts which have raised approximately $55,000 to pay off
the finance company who holds the mortgage to the house, to spare Leonard from the imminent
eviction she faced.

As WorldNetDaily reported, Leonard fell
three months behind on her $661 mortgage payments while trying to renovate the decaying home she
bought in 1968. She had paid off the original Veterans Administration loan but refinanced the property in
2000 to pay for renovations. After replacing the roof and fixing the bathroom the repairs started
snowballing to the point she found herself completely rewiring the house.

“Once you get behind, with medical bills and all it’s hard to catch up,” Leonard told WND. The
widow suffers from diabetes, severe asthma and chronic bronchitis. She has been unable to work and
raised the couple’s five children on the fixed income of her husband’s military benefits and disability
payments.

On Feb. 28, 1967 Army Sergeant First Class Matthew Leonard’s platoon came under heavy attack
near Suoi Da in South Vietnam by a large enemy force employing small arms, automatic weapons, and
hand grenades. The platoon leader and other key personnel were wounded so Leonard assumed
command, rallied his troops, and set a defensive perimeter.

When a wounded companion fell beyond that perimeter, Leonard rushed to his aid, sustaining a
sniper wound as he dragged the man to safety. He refused aid, and continued to lead his platoon in their
defense.

Under the cover of the main attack, the enemy moved a machinegun into a location where it could
sweep the entire perimeter. This threat was magnified when the platoon machinegun in this area
malfunctioned. Leonard quickly crawled to the gun position and was helping to clear the malfunction
when the gunner and other men in the vicinity were wounded by fire from the enemy machinegun.

Leonard rose to his feet, charged the enemy gun and destroyed the hostile crew despite being hit
several times by enemy fire. He moved to a tree, propped himself against it, and continued to engage
the enemy until he succumbed to his many wounds.

His valiant acts inspired the remaining members of his platoon to hold back the enemy until
assistance arrived.

Leonard was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his “conspicuous gallantry and
intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” He was one of 20 Black
Americans to receive that honor in Vietnam. There have only been 3,425 identified Medal of Honor
recipients.

The MOH was chartered by Congress in 1958 to provide aid to medal recipients, their widows or
their children.

“I’m very proud to say we’ve lived up to our charter and have taken care of our own,” Littrelle told
WND. “When I got the word about Mrs. Leonard’s situation I said, ‘This is not going to happen. We need
to buy that house back and give it to her.’” His organization has earmarked $10,000 to help Mrs.
Leonard.

Littrelle next turned to close friend and colleague Arnold Fisher, chief executive officer of the Fisher
House Foundation, who agreed to chip in $30,000 toward the effort.

Meanwhile, Randle set up the “Lois Leonard Redemption Fund” to which Matthew Leonard’s
combat unit contributed $3,000 and WorldNetDaily readers, Mrs. Leonard’s neighbors and fellow
churchgoers and others donated some $12,000. More than $55,000 was raised altogether.

Leonard was initially told she needed to come up with $64,800 to reclaim her house, but Littrelle and
Randle succeeded in negotiating a reduced price of $40,000 from Litton Finance Corporation in
Houston, Texas.

“I guess when they realized this was a widow of a posthumous MOH recipient, it touched their
heart,” said Littrelle.

A call to Litton seeking comment was not returned.

Now that the organizers are in a position of having collected more than they need, Littrelle said the
monies from the fund would go towards paying off the mortgage, with the balance coming from MOH
and the Fisher House Foundation. He said what was left over would be used to complete the
outstanding renovations on Leonard’s home.

“The house is in bad need of renovation,” said Littrelle. “The hot water heater doesn’t work. The
furnace quit working two years ago and there never has been air conditioning.”

“She’s feeling much, much better now,” Randle told WND from Leonard’s home while supervising the installation of a hot-water heater.

“I just can’t put it into words,” Leonard added. “I slept better last night than I have in a long while.”

Previous articles:

War hero’s widow faces eviction

War hero’s widow gets reprieve


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