Rose Sabo Brown was a bride of just nine months when her husband died a military hero in 1970 in Cambodia.
Now, 42 years later, she continues to honor the life and death of Spc. 4 Leslie H. Sabo Jr.
In May that effort took her to the White House, when Sabo was awarded posthumously the Medal of Honor. Saturday, it brought her to Hermitage, where The Moving Wall is on display through Monday.
“At the White House I said I would honor him the rest of my life,” Sabo Brown said of her late husband, the man she met and fell in love with at a high school football game in 1967.
Sabo Brown, who lives in New Castle, was among the featured speakers Saturday morning during a ceremony in front of The Moving Wall. With that backdrop of granite slates, filled with the names of those who died during the Vietnam War, Sabo Brown said her husband was “just a man who loved his fellow comrades.”
Sabo was born in Austria, and moved to the United States when he was 2. His parents and older brother had fled the communism of Hungary for Austria before Sabo was born. Ultimately, the family of four immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Ellwood City.
He was drafted and sent to Vietnam, then later to Cambodia.
On May 10, 1970, Sabo’s platoon was ambushed. His Medal of Honor citation tells of his bravery:
He charged the enemy and killed several enemy soldiers, forcing the enemy to retreat. As Sabo reloaded ammunition, a grenade landed nearby. He threw it and threw himself on top of a comrade.
Sabo bore the brunt of the blast. Injured, he continued to push toward the enemy, and eventually crawled and hurled another grenade into the enemy’s bunker, stifling their attack.
It came to be known as the Mother’s Day Ambush. Sabo and seven others died, though as his citation notes, “His indomitable courage and complete disregard for his own safety saved the lives of many of his platoon members.”
The funny thing is, for years Sabo’s family didn’t know the story of his heroism. The U.S. Army had told his parents that he had died from enemy gunfire. They never knew the whole story, and had no idea that Sabo’s commanders had recommended him for the Medal of Honor.
Sabo Brown eventually remarried, and divorced her second husband. She said she never stopped loving the man who made her believe in love at first sight. And finally, in 2002, she posted something online about her late husband. She eventually connected with some of Sabo’s comrades, and that’s when she learned the real story of his death.
The military somehow had lost Sabo’s Medal of Honor recommendation. It took another 10 years, and approvals by Congress twice, for Sabo finally to receive the honor he earned 42 years ago.
“I gave up on it,” Sabo Brown said of the award. “I thought in my heart, I know.”
But then in March she received a phone call from the Pentagon. It was finally done. She would learn more the next day, when another, higher-ranking official called her.
That next day the phone rang. A woman asked her, “Do you have a few minutes to talk to the President of the United States?”
She was stunned. She was expecting a call from someone else inside the Pentagon. She found a way to say yes, and suddenly she was talking to Barack Obama. Two months later they met in person, during a ceremony where she officially accepted her late husband’s award.
“It was unreal, for the president to call you at home,” Sabo Brown said. And of her eventual meeting with the Obamas, she said. “It was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.”
Hero gets overdue Medal of Honor
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