During National African American History Month, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Marine Veteran Lee E. Blackmon, who received a Purple Heart during Vietnam.
Born in 1950 in Georgia, Lee E. Blackmon moved to New York City at age 10. In 1969, the 19-year-old Blackmon enlisted in the Marines and deployed to Da Nang, Vietnam. He served in Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. Blackmon first served as a rifleman, and then promoted to squad leader, fire team leader, grenadier (the marksman who carries out the orders of the fire team leader) and eventually platoon sergeant.
On Sept. 8, 1970, Blackmon was a part of Operation Pickens Forest, which was an initiative to defeat the Vietcong and North Vietnam Army. During the mission, Blackmon and the rest of his reinforcement unit tried to rescue a soldier trapped by snipers. Enemy forces shot Blackmon twice. At first, Blackmon did not realize he was shot. When he fired his own rifle, he saw it shooting down, not up. It was not until he saw blood gushing from his arm that he realized what had happened.
Unfortunately, due to the severity of his wounds, he discharged from his service. In an interview with PATV Great Neck/North Shore, he talked about how he felt at the time.
“I felt bad because I had to leave them,” he said. “I did not want to leave. I did not want to leave. … We were there as one team. White, black, red, it doesn’t matter the color, because when I get in that foxhole with you, I’m going to have to watch your back and you’re going to have to watch mine.”
Upon returning home, Blackmon got involved in community activism as a strong supporter of Veterans. In 2001, he joined the American Legion Post 483 in Queens, New York, in which Blackmon is currently their commander. He started a food pantry, which is still operating during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, he speaks about the military at local schools and honors Veterans at Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day events. He also works with Veterans at the VA hospital in Queens, New York, to get them involved in recreational activities.
In addition to receiving a Purple Heart, he also received a National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, Vietnam Meritorious Civil Action Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Thank you for your service!
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Writer: Michael Veronda