Forty-three years after he was killed, Saturday’s dedication to Michael Leif held special significance for a whole generation of veterans. After all, there were no parades when they came back from Vietnam.
“They got no recognition whatsoever. 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,” said Leif’s cousin Tom Johnson.
Still others never made it back, like Orion grad Michael Leif.
“When he got his draft notice he did what he was supposed to do. Just a nice kid, do anything for ya, help you out,” Johnson said.
Killed in action 43 years ago, Saturday, Leif got the remembrance he deserved. It was an idea of Bill Montgomery’s that sparked six months ago over beers and memories — to dedicate a road in a fallen friend’s name.
Thanks to the work of the Sagadin VFW Post #143 and the American Legion Post #255, today, the road that Sgt. Leif grew up on bears both his name and his memory. Henry County Highway 7 could be a blueprint for others in the area to follow as well.
“Other counties are talking about maybe using the guidelines we’ve set up to do it in their county. So maybe there’ll be a grassroots effort to get this going all over the place,” said George Rose, who helped spearhead the VFW and Legion efforts.
The groups have made “Michael W. Leif Road” a point of pride for a generation of soldiers.
“The Vietnam veterans are just sort of forgotten at this time, so we thought it’d be a good thing to do to bring some closure to a lot of Vietnam veterans,” said Rose.
Although they never received a hero’s welcome home, it’s a sign that their service is remembered.