Representatives from the American Legion Post 14 and National Black Veterans Association came to the fiscal court for a request on Tuesday. Dillard Barton (American Legion Post 14) and Bill Smith (National Black Veterans Association) request that two signs be placed along Cumberland Avenue in Middlesboro in remembrance of Pfc. Leonard Foster Mason.
One sign would be placed as close to U.S. 25E as possible and the other would be placed at the other end of Cumberland Avenue, where it can be seen when coming over Fonde Mountain.
Barton spoke with Middlesboro Mayor Bill Kelley and state Rep. Rick Nelson about the signs and both have shown support. During the meeting, Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock also expressed his support for the road signs.
Brock said he wanted to extend the request and have a sign placed at the north end of Pineville as well. A request has to be placed to the Department of Transportation. The department has the final say on all request involving a state maintained road.
Brock stated he would like for the sign to be permanent if the Department of Transportation approves the signs.
If the signs are approved then Barton and Smith would like to hold a ceremony when the signs are put up. The two veterans also will have Mason’s name placed on the monument inside the courthouse.
Mason, who was a Bell County native, enlisted in the Marine Corps during the time of World War II. He received the Medal of Honor, which is the highest declaration that is awarded to any soldier in the United States, for his actions during the landing of Guam on July 22, 1944.
On that day, Mason’s platoon was attacked by enemy machine guns. The platoon remained trapped inside a gully. Acting on his on will, Mason emerged from the gully and cleared out a hostile position.
“His heroic act in the face of almost certain death enabled his platoon to accomplish its mission,” said Barton.
During the event, Mason received several wounds and died the following day. Mason was with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Division when the event occurred. He was an automatic rifleman.
In due time, the U.S. Navy named a destroyer after him, which launched in January 1946. It served in many locations including Korea from 1950 to 1953.
Anthony Cloud is a staff writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. He can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.