LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) – William Leonard was known in Lockport for many years as a butcher, an employee at Harrison Radiator and an active member of the VFW.
However, in just a couple of weeks, he will be known to the nation as the recipient of a Medal of Honor.
His daughter Rosemary McQueen got the call. She told News 4, “I don’t think he could believe it; we can barely believe it.”
Leonard died in 1985, just days before his 72nd birthday. During his life, the stories he told about his time serving in the Army during World War II never focused on his heroics. He was a squad leader with Company C, 30th Infantry.
His daughter Patricia Kennedy said, “A bunch of the soldiers, they were in France and went into this deserted bakery and got the best tasting bread they had ever had. Those are the things he told us.”
However, Leonard was a hero. On November 7th, 1944 his platoon was attacked near St. Die, France and all but eight men were killed.
Through blistering artillery, mortar, machine gun and rifle power, Leonard led the survivors to a tree-covered hill.
He was shot in the back but he kept going, eventually taking over the Germans who led the attack.
McQueen said, “Not many people would do that and actually risk their life to do it and I’m very proud.”
Leonard received many awards for his valor, but after a review, Congress determined that wasn’t enough; he deserved the nation’s top honor.
Kennedy explained, “It’s a great honor but I think my father would say I didn’t do anything else that any of the other soldiers wouldn’t have done.”
McQueen said, “I think he’d just be so proud and he’d be proud of us. My other sister is coming too so there will be three of us at the White House. It’s just an amazing thing and it’s hard to believe that it’s actually going to happen. Hopefully, he’s looking down on us saying, ‘Do me proud girls.’”
Leonard’s Medal of Honor will be presented posthumously March 18th in Washington, D.C. His name will also be added to a Wall of Heroes at the Pentagon.