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 Friday, April 18, the 108th day of 2014. There are 257 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: A new steamer, Keithsburg, now is at our levee taking on board the balance of her fixtures preparatory to assuming her position on the daily Rock Island and Keokuk line.
1889 -- 125 years ago: C.W. Hawes was appointed deputy county clerk by county clerk Donaldson.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Mrs. O.E. child, of Moline, was named president of the Women's Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Church Rock Island District of the Central Illinois conference.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Augustana College is making plans for a drive for funds to erect a field house and make football field improvements.
1964 -- 50 years ago: A expanded election coverage system featuring a 16-foot chalkboard showing up to the minute running totals, attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd to The Argus newsroom last night.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Balloons frame Rock Island attorney Stewart Winstein who was given a surprise party in the rotunda of the Rock Island County Courthouse on Thursday to honor his 50th year of practicing law.

(More History)