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Vinton lost another hero this weekend.

World War II and Korea veteran Leland (Lee) Laton was one of many local men who shared their stories with students at Vinton-Shellsburg High School (and with me).

For years, we would see Lee, a Navy man, at a variety of veteran-related events. His family even donated a vintage map of Iwo Jima to the American Legion Post 57 Hall.

Lee was in Iwo Jima, 69 years ago, a few days after the Marines raised that flag on that Japanese Island. Later, he escorted the Engola Gay B-29 during to Japan, where it dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Several days later, he was a witness to the ending of the war in the Pacific, as his fleet accompanied the USS Missouri.

A few years later, Lee’s government sent him to Korea. He served as a ship gunner for a while before returning home to Benton County. He worked at a variety of jobs and served the First Baptist Church in a variety of ways, including its choir. He had the pride and pleasure of seeing some of his descendants serve their country the way he did.

Lee lost Doris, his wife of 71 years, on Christmas Day, 2012. Although he had been in failing health for the past year or so, Lee always greeted me (and everyone else) with a smile.

Our Vinton Today files contain several stories about Lee and his work with local students, as well as the honors he received for his service.

His passing is yet one more reminder for all of us to listen, while we can, to the stories – to preserve as much as possible the history of their great deeds and unique sacrifice.

And, while we can, to say thanks.

Here are a few links to stories about Lee, his service to our country, and the time he spent sharing his story:

Korean War medal ceremony

In the VSHS classroom in 2013

2010 Honor Flight fund-raiser

Honor Flight assembly, VSHS

Honor Flight check presentation, 2010

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Comments (4)

Rest in peace, Lee. Thank you for your service.
By: Maureen Haisman on March 3rd 3:49pm
Thanks Dean for the very nice write up on Sandy's dad Lee Laton. He enjoyed every moment, especially working with the kids. He will be missed. Thanks again.
By: Larry And Sandy Driscol on March 3rd 4:50pm
Your family has our sympathy. Lee was very great at sharing his war experiences with everyone. He will be missed.
By: Dale & Jeanette Henry on March 3rd 7:22pm
Thanks Dean for sharing with our community a great man and dear friend. It is always sad to have someone leave us but I know the faith that Lee had in Jesus and do not doubt he is exactly where he wants to be
By: David Condry on March 4th 12:04pm

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