Pfc. Leonard F. Mason and his family were honored on Tuesday when the Bell County Fiscal Court, Middlesboro Mayor Bill Kelley, Pineville Mayor Sherwin Rader and state Rep. Rick Nelson unveiled the Pfc. Leonard Foster Mason Medal of Honor Memorial Highway road sign.
Mason, a Bell County native, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor, which is the highest declaration awarded to any soldier in the United States for his actions, for his efforts 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 own will, Mason emerged from the gully and cleared a hostile position. Mason received several wounds and died the following day.
He 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.
“The Medal of Honor is special,” said Brock. “Since the 1880s, approximately 3,500 (soldiers) are all that have ever been awarded (the Medal of Honor).”
Nelson had a message to all the young people in attendance at the dedication ceremony.
“When you watch a basketball player or a baseball player…they are not really a hero. You may think they are, but they are not,” said Nelson. “The hero is Leonard Mason and all the folks that are veterans.”
“This gentleman grew up in our small county during hard times and left his mark on this world,” said Kelley about Mason.
Joyce Johnson, Mason’s sister, was present for the ceremony on Tuesday. She received a flag during the Honor Guard ceremony, following the dedication ceremony. The Honor Guard lowered the United States flag to half mast during the ceremony.
James Madison from the Bell County Historical Society read the citation for Mason. The Honor Guard presented the colors and held a 21-gun salute before Taps was played.
Anthony Cloud can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 606-248-1010, ext. 208.