Leslie McKenzie Receives Quilt Of Valor

Leslie McKenzie received the Quilt of Valor on Sunday, March 26, at Mount Calvary Baptist Church, at the morning worship service at 11:00 presented by Lorene Arnette of the Quilt of Valor Society.

Several of Mr. McKenzie’s children and families were present for the presentation along with the Mount Calvary Church congregation.
Lorence Arnette presented a short summary of her Uncle Leslie’s military service. Turning 18 on August 30, 1944, he was immediately drafted into the United States Army. He was sworn into the Army at Fort Jackson and assigned to the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Bragg. He was shipped to Camp Blanding, Florida, for 16 weeks of basic training. He was then shipped by train to Fort Lawton in Seattle, Washington to wait for transport to the Pacific Theater.

From Seattle he was shipped to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Troops were being staged in Hawaii for the Battle of Okinawa. When it came time to depart Hawaii, there were 90 more troops than the main troop transport would hold. Those 90 troops, including Uncle Leslie, were assigned to three smaller amphibious assault ships or Landing Ship Medium known as LSMs’. Each LSM held road grading equipment and 30 troops, in addition to the officers and 50 crewmen. Uncle Leslie was on LSM 365. They sailed for Okinawa in a large convoy, but when they reached Saipan, the LSMs’ stayed in Saipan for two weeks while the rest of the convoy sailed on to Okinawa. When the LSMs’ arrived in Okinawa, the battle was winding down. On reflection, the Battle of Okinawa was the largest, costliest, and bloodiest battle of the Pacific War.
Because of that two-week delay in Saipan, he missed the worst of the fighting. On Okinawa he went out on patrol as part of the post-battle mop-up. Troops on Okinawa were destined for the invasion of Japan until the nuclear bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima ended the war a few days after his 19th birthday.
After the war ended, he was sent to Korea as part of the post-war garrison force. There he was stationed in Umsong, Korea, just south of Seoul. Omsong is on the 36th latitude or parallel; the 38th Parallel North was, and still is, the boundary between North and South Korea and marked the so-called demilitarized zone, so we can see how close Uncle Leslie was to the North Korea battle zone.
Ironically, this young lad from a tobacco farm in South Carolina was housed in a large tobacco processing facility on the edge of town. It was one of the nicest buildings in the town, even having steam heat. After arriving in Umsong, he was promoted to Sergeant. Imagine, in just one year, he was promoted to Sergeant.
The Korean people were destitute after years of Japanese occupation. They had nothing and the winter was bitterly cold.
One night while walking guard duty, Sergeant McKenzie saw a Korean with a gas can at the unit’s gas tank. The Korean saw him and ran. Uncle Leslie yelled for him to halt but he just kept running. Uncle Leslie should have shot him according to orders, but he couldn’t bring himself to shoot some desperate person for stealing a little gasoline. An act of humanity in a war-ravaged country.
Once he was discharged, he made the laborious trip back home by troop transport and train with stops in Incheon, Korea; Japan; Seattle, Washington; and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
With this quilt, we want to honor you for your service and for your willingness to lay down your life for your country. And, we thank you for your service, your sacrifice, and your valor in serving our nation. It is our hope that your quilt will provide healing, peace, and comfort. Please know you are forever in our hearts.

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