43 years ago, a Henry County, Illinois Soldier named Michael Leif was killed in Vietnam. On Saturday, October 6th, 2012, he received a special dedication that organizers say carries meaning for a whole generation of veterans.
There were no parades when a generation came back from Vietnam.
“They got no recognition whatsoever,” says Tom Johnson, Leif’s Cousin. “[They were] spit on, cussed at, told they were useless, baby killers… and it just isn’t true. These guys went and did what their country asked them to do.”
Still, others never made it back, like Lief, who was a graduate of Orion High School.
“When he got his draft notice he did what he was supposed to do,” says Johnson. “Just a nice kid, do anything for ya, help you out.”
Killed in action in 1969, Leif got the remembrance he deserved on Saturday. It was an idea of Bill Montgomery… sparked six months ago over beers and memories – Why not do something nice for a fallen friend?
Henry County Highway 7 is now “Michael W Leif Rd” and could be a blueprint for others to follow.
“Other counties are talking about maybe using the guidelines we’ve set up to do it in their county,” says George Rose, with the Orion VFW and American Legion. “So maybe there’ll be a grassroots effort to get this going all over the place.”
It’s why “Michael W Leif Rd” is a point of pride for more than a single soldier.
“The Vietnam veterans are just sort of forgotten at this time, so we thought it would be a good thing to do to bring some closure to a lot of Vietnam veterans,” says Rose.