Veterans activist Leo Connelly to receive Purple Heart 51 years later
Leo H. Connelly Jr., highly decorated Army Vietnam War veteran, is finally receiving the medal he values most, the Purple Heart, more than 51 years after hand-to-hand combat in which he was stabbed twice by a Viet Cong soldier.
Connelly, of Boardman, previously inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame for Valor, was wounded during Operation Billings on June 18, 1967, while attempting to rescue an American soldier lying on the ground next to a Viet Cong soldier.
Believing the Viet Cong soldier was dead, Connelly reached down to pick up the American when the Viet Cong turned and cut Connelly’s left arm.
“As I drew my knife, he stabbed me in the side before I cut his throat,” said Connelly, who at the time was 19, was 6 feet tall, and weighed about 147 pounds.
After carrying the American to a helicopter for transport to medical care, Connelly said he took his M-60 machine gun and some ammo and went back to the tree line to continue fighting.
On his way, Connelly ran into a medic who saw the blood and put butterfly stitches and bandages on his wounds.
“There was no record of it because the medic patched me up in the field and I didn’t seek additional medical treatment at the Red Cross, where it would have been documented. However, we were able to find two guys who were there and remembered the bandage and the blood,” Connelly said.
“I still have the scars,” he said.
Read more about him and his service in Saturday's Vindicator or on Vindy.com.