Former Prestonsburg man earns Ambassador of Peace medal for Korean War service

Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 7:05 PM EDT
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PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (WSAZ) - At 91 years old, Leo Weddle thought he would never live to tell the story of his days as a marine in the Korean War.

“I’ve been very fortunate all of my life. The first day I was on the front line, within 10 minutes, a mortar came in and hit, oh say 5 feet away. It was a dud. If it had gone off, I would be in a military cemetery 70 years ago,” Weddle said.

It wasn’t his only close encounter. Another mortar failed to seriously injure him, but claimed the lives of several others. And a planned flight from Japan to Hawaii that he was bumped from at the last minute allowed him another shot at life. The plane crashed, killing everyone on board.

“I was a machine gunner. I saw a friend of mine get hit by a mortar, and I got out of the fox hole to help him. Just as I got down, there was another mortar that came,” Weddle said. “It was closer to me than anyone ... that’s when I was wounded. The mortar killed two officers and wounded five others enlisted.”

Weddle earned a Purple Heart for his service in the Korean War.

"I think God was with me," Weddle said.

Seventy years following the Korean War, Weddle has been honored with a medal recognizing him as an Ambassador for Peace on behalf of the South Korean government.

“When it came in, I didn’t know what to say. That’s something that happened at another time in my life when I was a young man. And 70 years later, here comes a gorgeous medal from where I fought,” Weddle said.

He went on to say he was grateful for his experience.

"Those were probably the most valuable three years I've ever had in my life," said Weddle. "The most intense."

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