As Veteran's Day approaches this year, on Monday, November 11, we look to our colleagues for some impressive tales of bravery by those who served our country. The following are just a few examples.

220px Matthew LeonardMatthew Leonard

Paula Leonard, assistant to Drs. Paul Benson, Silvio Litovsky and Stephanie Reilly, is the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran who lost his life saving others, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

Her father, Matthew Leonard, was born in Eutaw, Alabama, married his high school sweetheart and had five children.

He entered the Army in 1949, and served in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Leonard was serving as a platoon sergeant in South Vietnam in February, 1967, when his platoon came under attack. He organized a defense, encouraging his men. Leonard suffered several wounds and still commanded the platoon, eventually charging an enemy machine gun. He was wounded, and died soon after. 

Matthew Leonard recieved America's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions. His widow--Paula's mother Lois--and her family (including Paula) were presented with the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon B. Johnson during a ceremony at the Pentagon on December 19, 1968. Paula was in the third grade at the time; she was in the first grade when her father was killed in action.

Paula says her father always said, “Veterans that make it through the war should look out for the families of veterans who would not return home.” She said immediately following his death many soldiers checked on their family to assist with anything they might need. 

Leonard is buried in Fort Mitchell, Alabama's National Cemetery. His photo can be found hanging in the Birmingham VA Hospital near the elevators at the 19th Street entrance.

One of our faculty, Dr. Douglas Hurst, Assistant Professor, Molecular & Cellular Pathology, served in the U.S. Navy from 1988-1994 onboard the fast-attack nuclear submarine USS Grayling as a nuclear mechanic and scuba diver.
In 1993, the Grayling collided wtih a Russian missile-carrying submarine in the Arctic Ocean, which the Grayling was shadowing. According to a 1993 article about the incident in The New York times, Pentagon officials said, "they believed the Russian sub was armed and on a routine missile patrol." Neither sub subsustained major damage, and no crew members were injured.

In 1992, CBS News did a story highlighting the USS Grayling during its ICEX-92 mission, at the end of the Cold War, saying it was the first time, "after 45 years of secrecy," that a news crew was allowed on board a working sub.

Birmingham is home to the nation's oldest Veterans Day parade, owing to a Birmingham WWII veteran pushing to initiate the day of recognition. Read more about it and make plans to attend here.