Former Youngstown State University student Leslie Sabo, who was killed in action during the Vietnam War and earlier this month posthumously received the Medal of Honor from President Obama, will be among the veterans honored at YSU’s annual Reading of the Names ceremony at 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 30.
The ceremony at Veterans Plaza on the YSU campus honors university employees and students who died while on active military duty.
The Medal of Honor, which the president presented at a White House ceremony to Sabo’s widow, Rose Mary, is the nation’s highest honor for gallantry. Jim Olive, coordinator of YSU’s Office of Veterans Affairs, said Sabo is believed to be the first YSU student to receive the honor.
“His act of bravery was indeed heroic, sacrificing his life after being wounded to save his buddies,” said Olive, a veteran of the Vietnam War.
Sabo was born in Austria, came to Youngstown when he was two years old and then moved to Ellwood City, Pa. He attended YSU between September 1966 and March 1969 and was drafted into the Army in April 1969. He was serving with U.S. forces near the village of Se San in eastern Cambodia on May 10, 1970, when his unit was ambushed and nearly overrun by North Vietnamese forces. The battle would later be known as the Mother’s Day Ambush. Comrades testified that Sabo charged up from the rear, grabbed an enemy grenade and tossed it away, using his body to shield a fellow soldier. Then, shrugging off his own injuries, Sabo advanced on an enemy bunker that had poured fire onto the U.S. troops — and then pulled the pin on his own grenade. He was 22 years old.
Not long after the battle, survivors from Company B, 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division filed reports attesting to Sabo’s heroism. But somehow the documentation was lost. In 1999, Alton Mabb, another veteran from the 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles” found the original paperwork at the National Archives while researching an article for the division’s magazine. He asked archives personnel to send him copies and began the push to get Sabo recognized.
According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, before Sabo, the medal had been awarded 3,458 times since it was first issued in 1863. There are fewer than 90 living recipients.