Lester: 'Duke' in hospice as fight for Medal of Honor continues

  • A new witness account might aid in the campaign to get the Medal of Honor for Loren "Duke" Abdalla, 91, of Fox Lake.

    A new witness account might aid in the campaign to get the Medal of Honor for Loren "Duke" Abdalla, 91, of Fox Lake. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/28/2016 5:14 PM

Loren "Duke" Abdalla, age 91 and dealing with advanced colon cancer, says he doesn't dwell on not receiving the Medal of Honor many say he deserves for his heroism in the 1945 Battle of Okinawa.

"It bothers everyone else more than it does me," the retired Marine from Fox Lake said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But a recent development could help the quest to get Abdalla the medal for carrying a wounded member of his platoon to safety before returning to the front lines and taking out six enemy machine gun nests, the final two as the last man standing in his squad.

New witness

Abdalla's family recently located a new account to corroborate the story of his valor. Family members of the late Cpl. John Brady of Rhode Island recalled hearing Brady's accounts of Abdalla carrying him to safety and pouring water on him to stop phosphorous gas from eating at his skin. Brady died in 1984, but his family found letters he wrote from the hospital in 1945 that confirmed the stories.

Abdalla is the great-grandson of Chief Running Bull and a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. He and others say his American Indian ancestry impeded recognition with the Medal of Honor in the years after the war. Abdalla, awarded a Purple Heart for his actions in the Battle of Peleliu, offhandedly mentioned his military record a few years ago to Waukegan attorney and fellow Marine veteran Rick Daniels when asking for help on a zoning issue.

"You should have received the Medal (of Honor)," Daniels told him, then later contacted the commandant of the Illinois Marine Corps League to put the wheels in motion.

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Now, U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota is working to expedite a review by the secretary of the Navy to authorize the award.

A vow for an elevator

After offering to give a double-amputee war veteran a tour of the Elk Grove VFW Post, Kitty Weiner tells me she was horrified not to have thought of a key detail: the stairs. "My heart came out of my chest," Weiner, a political consultant and former longtime aide to U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton, tells me. After the veteran had to be carried in and out of the building, Weiner vowed to do whatever it took to help the VFW get an elevator.

It's not cheap, though, with estimates for installing an elevator at the Devon Avenue facility running between $155,000 and $165,000, Weiner says.

The effort has truly taken a village, with Mayor Craig Johnson helping to help organize a fundraiser and Castle Chevrolet offering to raffle off a 2017 Corvette for the cause. Tickets are $10 each or 3 for $20, with the drawing to be held July 25 at the last Mid-Summer Classic concert at the Elk Grove Village Green. For information on where to buy tickets, visit www.ccceg.org.

Democrat Susana Mendoza, left, beat Republican Leslie Munger for Illinois comptroller.
Democrat Susana Mendoza, left, beat Republican Leslie Munger for Illinois comptroller. -
Munger's strength

Political data analyst Scott Kennedy recently did a deep dive of Illinois election results and found, among other tidbits, that even though Republican Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger of Lincolnshire lost statewide to Democratic Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza, she outperformed Republicans at the top of the ticket -- including President-elect Donald Trump and departing U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Highland Park -- everywhere but in southern Illinois. Munger's performance was particularly strong in the collar counties, where she took an average of 51 percent of the vote, compared to Trump's 41 percent and Kirk's 45 percent. In suburban Cook County, Munger took 39 percent of the vote, while Trump took 30 percent and Kirk took 33 percent. For more on the election, check out Kennedy's site, www.illinoiselectiondata.com.

Service of remembrance

Glueckert Funeral Home will hold its annual holiday remembrance service at 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, in its chapel, 1520 N. Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights. To those who RSVP, a gift ornament will be provided with a picture of the person being remembered. St. Peter Lutheran Church Pastor Micah Greiner says that during the holiday season, those grieving are looking for hope and find comfort in remembering and telling stories. For more information, call (847) 253-0168.

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