At 92, Jack Leach was honored for being the oldest member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2019 on Monday night. He received pins for being a continuous member for 70 years.
Leach is one of only two Surry County natives still living that were at the attack on Pearl Harbor that fateful day. His longtime friend and fellow survivor Plate “Jake” Jacobs was on hand at the ceremony last night. Jacobs served in the Army’s 27th Infantry.
Leach was one of 14 members of the military from Mount Airy who was serving at Pearl Harbor, along with another 28 or 29 from Surry County.
The attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, is a day he said changed his life forever.
“It’s a sight you don’t ever want to see — and a scene you will never forget,” said Leach after VFW Commander Carlyle Whitaker presented him with two pins.
“He asked for two pins, but I would have given him 10 if he’d asked,” said Whitaker.
Leach said he needed two, because he only has two VFW hats to wear.
Mayor Deborah Cochran also presented Leach with a key to the city.
“Today we are honored to be in the presence of Jack Leach. He embarked on a journey that changed his life and ours, too. He did not trust his feelings and fear, but sacrificed his own dreams and desires for his country. He is the face of courage,” said Cochran.
After he accepted the key, Cochran went on to say with a chuckle, “Now don’t let your rowdy VFW friends and their women in City Hall after midnight.”
After the ceremony, Leach delighted in showing off some of his mementos including a $1 certificate note that had Hawaii written on it. He said if he had been caught bringing that back with him, he would have had to pay fines and serve five years in Leavenworth Prison.
For the ceremony, members of the VFW Post 2019 and the American Legion Post 123 were on hand to applaud Leach. The Patriot Guard Riders were on hand to form a path of American flags for Leach.
Also at Leach’s side was his 88-year-old girlfriend, Vera Ashburn. They have been an item for the past four and a half years.
“I’ve been robbing the cradle again,” said Leach with a chuckle.
VFW member David Taylor pointed out that Veterans Park is one of only a few in the country that is run by both organizations.
Doc Germany, a member of the American Legion Post 123, planned the pinning ceremony.
Refreshments were served while old friends did some catching up.
Reach Mondee Tilley at email@example.com or at 719-1930.