Decades after serving in the Vietnam War, a Boardman veteran was given the Purple Heart for his acts of bravery.
“After 51 years, it closes a chapter in my life. There was a void there,” said Leo Connelly, Jr.
In 1967, Connelly saw a wounded American on the battlefield and reached down to help him. He was stabbed twice by a Viet Cong soldier while trying to rescue the fellow American.
Connelly killed the enemy and took the American back for help.
A passing medic patched his wounds, and he returned to the fight.
“It’s an incredible story,” said Valley Congressman Tim Ryan.
There were no records of the injuries, however, and that meant getting recognized for the act was difficult.
Congressman Ryan worked with the Pentagon, located witnesses and helped Connelly qualify for the award.
“He did it, and we just had to make the case for him, and sometimes penetrate through the bureaucracy, which we were able to eventually do,” Ryan said. “I feel so good for him and his family to get some closure.”
That effort led to the ceremony on Saturday in which Connelly was finally awarded the Purple Heart.
“I served my country honorably. I spilled blood for this country, and even today in my community, I honor this country,” Connelly said. “It’s a symbol of what I want to be able to spread the word about the 58,000 that didn’t come home.”
Connelly is an advocate for veterans. He said despite being wounded, he wouldn’t hesitate to answer his country’s call again, if given the chance.
“There isn’t enough gold in Fort Knox that would stop me from doing it. It was a privilege to wear America’s uniform, and it would be a privilege to put it back on again and fight for this country,” he said.