Portion of Henry County Route 7 to be renamed in honor of Vietnam soldier

Posted Online: Oct. 01, 2012, 12:02 am
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By Lisa Hammer, rlhammer@qconline.com
LYNN CENTER -- A section of Henry County Route 7 is being renamed in honor of fallen Vietnam War soldier Michael W. Leif.

A dedication will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday at his grave site at the Western Township Cemetery. A lunch will follow at the Swedona Lutheran Church.

Signs bearing the road's honorary name have been placed at the intersection of routes 150 and 81 and on County Route 7 at the Henry-Mercer county line, with a third sign between those two. Orion American Legion Post 255 and the Orion Veterans of Foreign Wars Chapter 143 initiated the effort to name the road in honor of Sgt. Leif, who served in the Army from 1967 until he was killed on Dec. 7, 1969.

His mother, Lois Leif, of Moline, recently recalled that after her son's death the government told her only that he was killed in action. Thirty-four years later, she said, she got a letter from his fellow serviceman, Jim White, who wrote that he had offered to be in the more dangerous spot in the top of the tank on the day Sgt. Leif died. He did so, he said, because Sgt. Leif had just 23 days left in his year-long tour and Mr. White had seven months. Sgt. Leif declined the offer.

They were out on patrol when a girl who was probably just 12 years old fired at them from the bushes, shooting Sgt. Leif through the temple, Mr. White told Mrs. Leif.

Mr. White still writes to Mrs. Leif at Christmas. "He can't get over seeing Mike shot," she said.

Mrs. Leif said she was glad that Mr. White had contacted her. "At least we know what happened to Mike. He wasn't killed in action, he was killed by a civilian."

She said knowing he had died quickly was a big relief. "That was the best thing," she said.

Michael Leif graduated from Orion High School in 1967. His mother remembers him "tearing down the stairs" to where she was cutting hair -- she worked as a beautician for over 35 years -- and telling her, "'I got a job!'" and that he'd signed up for the Army.

"Mike said to me, 'Mom, I know why I'm fighting here; we can't let the Communists come to our country.' But I don't know, he was so young. Twenty years, what have you lived in 20 years?"

Mrs. Leif and her late husband, Leo, who died in 2002, went to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., three times. She remembers how little was done for the returning soldiers.

"Nothing was done for the Vietnam veterans whatsoever, no flags or parades or cops, like they have now -- which is wonderful to me; I mean, that's the way it should be."


Local events heading

  Today is Wednesday, Sept. 17, the 260th day of 2014. There are 105 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: We are told league merchants have paid no attention to the prohibition on selling ammunition, but continue to sell just as before the order was issued.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The Rev. R.F. Sweet, rector of Trinity Episcopal Parish, left for the East to visit his boyhood home in Boston before attending the general convention of the Episcopal Church in New York.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Dr. E.A. Anderson was named to succeed Dr. E.L. Kerns as head physician of the Modern Woodmen of America, and moved to Rock Island from Holdingford, Minn.
1939 -- 75 years ago: One week late, because of the outbreak of war, Dr. E.L. Beyer resumed his work as professor of romance languages at Augustana College. Dr. and Mrs. Beyer left Germany on the last train to the Belgian border.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Employees in Turnstyle stores in Moline and Davenport will vote Oct. 2 in an election set up by the Chicago regional office of the National Labor Relations Board. Employees will vote either for the Retail Clerk International or for no union.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Rock Island High School is considering a step to help teen moms stay in school and get their diploma. The school board is expected to vote tonight on instituting an on-site child care center.

(More History)