By: Sheila Crowley
Murray County News Staffwriter
Memorial Day is a day that’s set aside to remember with gratitude and pride all those who served and died for Our Country and Our Freedom.
However, for Robert Leonard, it was a bittersweet end to a very long journey. Seventy-three year Leonard served in Vietnam from June 6, 1966, to June 6, 1968. During those two years, he was injured twice… which earned him a Purple Heart. Today Robert still has shrapnel in his knee and suffers from symptoms of Agent Orange as well as PTSD.
On June 6, 1966, Leonard was shipped to Fort Leonardwood and then on to Fort Polk where he was prepped and readied for his overseas tour.
Leonard never talked about his service much. His daughter, Amy, had a short conversation with regards to his army duty as part of a high school research paper. This was the first his service time was ever talked about “It was just something we never discussed,” she shared. Not many details were shared during the conversation. She learned about where he served, the people he served with and some of the work they did. Amy inquired as to what it was like in Vietnam in which Robert replied, “I will tell you the truth, it was like hell.”
Amy thought about that conversation for some time. She learned more about the war and the fact of how little respect was given to the veterans who served during that time.
In 1997 Amy moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. There she worked with a gentleman whose wife was the CEO of the VA. The man questioned Amy in regards to her father serving and whether he was a patient of the VA. Amy response was, ‘why would he?’. Her mother, Sheila, replied, “He doesn’t feel it’s his right to go.” Robert commented he came home with ten fingers and ten toes and had done nothing more than what was asked.
Neither Amy or her mother understood the process involved using the services offered by the VA. His wife offered Amy a book outlining all the veterans rights and privileges.
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