Niagara Gazette

Communities

March 9, 2014

Almost 30 years after his death, Medal of Honor to be awarded to Lockport man

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — When Pat Kennedy received a call last month from a woman in the Army telling her that her father was chosen to be a Medal of Honor recipient, she thought it was a scam. After all, her father, Bill Leonard, passed away almost 30 years ago. 

”I expected her to say, ‘If you give me your credit card number, I’ll send you the medal,’” Kennedy said, adding that the woman said she would have a colonel call the next day to confirm the story. “I found it very hard to believe.”

But a colonel based at the Pentagon called the next day to report that Leonard, a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the military’s second highest honor while he was alive, was posthumously chosen for the military’s highest honor. Kennedy will receive the Medal of Honor for her father from President Barack Obama at the White House on March 18 with her two sisters. 

”We’re very excited to be going to Washington,” she said. “We’re all very proud of him.”

Kennedy, of Lockport, her sister Rosemary McQueen and another sister living in Louisiana are being flown to Washington, D.C. Along with receiving the medal from the president, there will also be a ceremony at the Pentagon. 

”Even though we were so proud of him before, it’s nice for the country to know,” McQueen said. 

Twenty-four veterans, including three who are still alive, will be receiving medals on March 18. Leonard was discovered during a 2002 Congressional review of Jewish and Hispanic soldiers whose actions made them eligible for the medal, but did not receive it due to discrimination. According to a White House press release on Feb. 21, the review looked at soldiers who had received the Distinguished Service Cross, but not the Medal of Honor. During the review, several soldiers were found who were not Jewish or Hispanic, but met the criteria to receive the Medal of Honor. Leonard was chosen through this process. Congress called for the review through the Defense Authorization Act.

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