Leon Clem enlisted in the military through the “buddy system.” That is, Leon and his cousin, who was also a good friend, decided to enlist together. Leon had his heart set on the Navy, but his cousin decided to join the Army. So, the buddies stuck together, and Leon enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1952.
Basic Training for Leon was at Fort Riley, Kansas. He was able to stay at Fort Riley for his heavy weapons and artillery training. When his training was completed, he was given a short vacation at home, and then shipped out from San Francisco – destination – Korea. It was a long crossing with a lot of soldiers getting sick passing through bad storms with high seas. When Leon finally reached the coast of Japan, he was put on a ship to Korea and then a train, which took him to the front lines.
Conditions at the front were intolerable. At times, the soldiers experienced wind chills of 70 degrees below zero. They had not been equipped with the proper gear for the cold temperatures. They lost fingers/hands, toes/feet, and had to endure the anguish of frostbitten noses and ears. Leon spent all of 1953 in Korea. He was wounded during the battle of Hill 225, better known as, “Pork Chop Hill,” and is a Purple Heart recipient. Leon did not speak more about his time in Korea.
In 1954, he was sent to Fort Hood, Texas, where he finished his military career as a Platoon Sergeant, and he admitted, without difficulty, that he was rough and tough!
When Leon was discharged in 1955, he experienced difficulty transitioning back to civilian life. He refused treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress, but he did have tremendous support from local Veterans’ groups, along with his loving wife of 62 years. Leon talks affectionately about his wife and her involvement with the same Veterans’ groups. “My wife was a very strong women, but she was also very kind. She was always by my side. She would attend the meetings with me because she held various auxiliary posts. She gave me strength.” Mr. Clem lost his wife in 2016, and you can tell how much he still loves and misses her.
Purple Heart Homes built a ramp for Mr. Clem, along with a deck to make it easier for him to get in and out of the house. He has fallen numerous times because the previous ramp/deck was shabby, too steep, and very slippery.
Purple Heart Homes appreciates your service, Mr. Clem, along with the sacrifices you made serving our country. We proudly welcome you into our Purple Heart Homes family!