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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Marine pilot honored for decades of service to U.S.

The Western Star

By Justin McClelland, Staff Writer

TURTLECREEK TWP. — For 25 years, Maj. Leonard Mapes, 88, flew enemy skies and spent long periods of time away from his family in order to protect his country. Even today, he proudly wears a Marine cap and colors and speaks freely of what a life as a serviceman meant to him.

“I was always honored to be a Marine and serve my country,” Mapes said.

Mapes was honored by the U.S. Marine Corps, friends, neighbors and Crossroads Hospice on Tuesday at the Otterbein Retirement Center. Mapes served as a pilot in the Marine Corps from 1943 until 1968, including flying planes and jets in both World War II and the Korean War.

“This was a great surprise,” Mapes said after the ceremony.

Many other residents who were also veterans attended the ceremony to salute him and reminisce about various tours of duty.

Mapes, who was born in Michigan, entered the Marines in 1943 at the heart of World War II. Mapes had always wanted to fly and soon fulfilled his wish by becoming a pilot.

His most harrowing experience occurred during the Korean War when he was shot down over the Pacific Ocean while on a mission.

“It wasn’t much fun,” Mapes said of his crash. “We picked up a couple of rounds in our tail. Nothing flies too well after that.”

Mapes was rescued by American forces shortly after the crash.

Between wars, Mapes married Dora, who is still his wife to this day. They met at a church party and became inseparable thereafter, Dora said. They had three boys together. The two sat together at the ceremony.

Dora carried a Chinese document that Mapes said was presented to him by Chinese military leader Chiang Kai-shek and Kai-shek’s wife.

After all this time, neither Mapes nor his wife have ever had the document translated.

Tuesday’s ceremony was arranged by Crossroads Hospice. Mapes was given a special pin from the Marines as well as a plaque and an American flag.

“This was absolutely great,” said Capt Jason Schrage, who presented Mapes with the award.

“I wish we had time to do more events like this on an individual basis. It’s an honor to make time for an event like this,” he said.


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