My letter is in response to the Feb. 25 article "Soldier from east Bakersfield to receive Medal of Honor," which, after 45 years, was long overdue.
In 1952, my family moved to east Bakersfield, one block from Leonard L. Alvarado's family. My brothers and sisters attended all the same schools as Leonard. Those who knew him well knew he could be very mischievous, but my sister also remembers him as very considerate and polite.
A March 2 letter to the editor ("Local soldier served his friends and his country") states Leonard once stood in front of his brother and told the leader of a group, "You gotta fight me first." That does sound like something Leonard would do. But anyone who truly knew Leonard knew he was the leader. The Leonard I knew was never a follower.
In those days, kids ran together in little gangs. We didn't have recreation halls or Boys & Girls Clubs to hang out at. I remember one time, after Leonard was involved in a fight, he offered his hand in a show of respect. That was just like him: One minute you could be his enemy, but earn his respect and you could become a lifelong friend. Leonard had a gentle side to him, but he tried not to show that side often.
When Leonard enlisted in the Army, I remember thinking it wouldn't be long before they sent him home. Was I wrong. Soon after arriving in Vietnam, he began to send letters and pictures to my friend. Some of the letters described serious battles. Some of the pictures were quite horrific. I wondered at times, "Will my friend make it home?" In my mind, Leonard was invincible. Sadly, I was wrong.
I recently was allowed to read the letter sent to Leonard's family describing his last battle in Vietnam. Those actions have finally earned him the honor he truly deserves. He paid the ultimate price, earning him the right to be called an American hero.