- WND - http://www.wnd.com -

War hero's widow gets reprieve

A war hero’s widow who faced eviction from her home today has been granted a reprieve.

According to a veteran’s group that’s trying to help 70-year-old Lois Leonard keep her house, U.S. Bank in Mobile, Ala., has agreed to extend its deadline a “few days” for her to come up with the $64,000 necessary to redeem it.

“I’ve got some of my things packed,” Leonard told WorldNetDaily, “but I’m praying the Lord will touch somebody’s heart.”

As WorldNetDaily reported, Leonard lost her husband of 17 years to the Vietnam War in 1967. She lost her elementary school sweetheart and their five children lost their father, but the nation gained a war hero.

On Feb. 28, 1967, Army Sgt. 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 machine gun into a location where it could sweep the entire perimeter. This threat was magnified when the platoon machine gun 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 machine gun.

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 are only 3,425 identified Medal of Honor recipients total.

Lois Leonard and her family were flown to Washington, D.C., where they were presented with Matthew’s Medal of Honor by President Lyndon Johnson at a Pentagon ceremony on Dec. 19, 1968.

Leonard then promptly bought the modest six-room Birmingham, Ala., home the couple had planned on purchasing upon Matthew’s return from the war and hung his Medal of Honor and other decorations marking his distinguished 20-year military career on the living room wall.

“I am proud. I’m just sorry he couldn’t make it back. I still hurt for it. It’s like it just happened,” Leonard told WorldNetDaily.

After succeeding in raising the couple’s five children on her own and paying off the home mortgage, the 70-year-old, who suffers from diabetes, severe asthma and chronic bronchitis, found her dream home crumbling around her.

She took out a home equity loan to finance renovations. After replacing the roof and fixing the bathroom, the repairs started snowballing to the point she found herself completely rewiring the house.

When Leonard fell three months behind on her $661 mortgage payments, she said the bank told her to come up with $4,600 or lose the house. The bank ultimately foreclosed on the home and U.S. Bank bought the house. Officials with the mortgage company are willing to return the home back to Leonard for $64,000.

In the meantime, an eviction order has been issued. Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies were expected to execute the eviction order today.

When alerted to Leonard’s plight, Bobby Randle, past commander of the Birmingham, Ala., chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, or MOPH, set up a “redemption fund” to try and raise the $64,000.

But his effort to raise the funds to spare Leonard got served a curve ball since banks were closed and no mail was delivered in observance of the federal holiday yesterday. As a result, he said an attorney had managed to negotiate a temporary reprieve for Leonard.

Randle also has contacted his local congressman in hopes that he’ll intervene.

“‘No’ is not in my vocabulary,” Randle told WND. “I am quite confident that one way or the other, the Lord will help me figure out a way to help Mrs. Leonard. … It gives me chills to think of a person dying for their country and his widow not receiving enough funds to help her survive,” he said.

While grateful for Randle’s efforts, Leonard said she feels embarrassed about all the fuss.

“I feel real bad,” Leonard told WND. “Next time, if the house starts falling in, I’m just going to let it happen. It’s been a real headache,” she said.

Contributions can be made to the “Lois Leonard Mortgage Redemption Fund” in person at any South Trust Bank in Birmingham, Ala. Checks should be made payable to and sent in care of the fund to South Trust Bank, 1725 28th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35209. This South Trust Bank branch is not equipped to handle credit card or Internet payments. Contact Sarah Baker for more details at (205) 948-1070.

Previous article:

War hero’s widow faces eviction