John Barrette

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November 1, 2012
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Scout didn’t talk about his service, but memoirs recount World War II

With Nevada Day 2012 lauding military service and families, Carson City’s Virginia Leone recently recalled the World War II reconnaissance work and valor of her late husband.Like the 19th century’s Kit Carson, for whom Carson City is named, Ray Leone nearly a century later was an Army scout. Leone did his reconnaissance work in Europe, but took years to open up about it.“He didn’t talk about it,” said the widow of the geologist and 1940s corporal in the 38th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mechanized). “Ray didn’t ever tell the kids about his service. He would mention it, but he didn’t go into detail about anything.”Eventually he did. In his 80s, Leone was encouraged to write about his wartime duties in England and on the European continent. Virginia Leone said their daughter, Denise, and grandson, Nicholas, helped him do it. The Leones, who grew up together in Minnesota and married after he returned from the war, also have sons named Kurt and Craig. The entire Leone clan is exemplary of the theme for this year’s Nevada Day: “Honoring Our Military and Families — Past, Present and Future.” Also in World War II were Ray’s two brothers, Albert and George, and Virginia Leone said they survived the war as well. She said Al served in Europe, George in the Pacific theater. The book “In Front of the Front-Lines” took three or four years to write, she said, and was self-published in 2011 with little time to spare.“He practically had just finished the book, and it’s a good thing he got it done,” she said, recounting that he died soon after at age 88.She is proud of her late husband’s service and enjoys sharing the story with interested persons, but still ponders why nations go to war. And she understands it isn’t pleasant for advance scouts or other warriors.“I guess that being in front of the front line was not very fun,” she said. Leone knew the troubling times that came from losing comrades in arms and the plaudits that stemmed from saving others. “The fighting the 38th Cavalry did to break out of the Normandy beachhead was not really what Recon Scouts were trained for,” he wrote. He said offensive combat was a job for infantry and, despite some training for battlefield attack, “we took a terrible beating in men and equipment.”Later he received a citation and soldier’s medal for risking his life to save fellow servicemen from an imminent explosion of a flaming, ammunition-laden truck. He “drove it to a deserted area where its exploding could do no further damage,” Maj. General E. N. Harmon wrote in the citation. “Corporal Leone’s heroism undoubtedly prevented a large number of casualties...”At one point Leone also captured a group of Germans. But he said he thought they were ready to surrender and added the situation was no more dangerous than others he and others routinely faced. Leone earned postsecondary degrees and worked as a geologist after the war. He retired in 1985 and moved with Virginia to Carson City a few years later to be closer to their children and grandchildren. The recon scout is gone, but hardly forgotten. At West Fort Hood in Kileen, Texas, the 38th Cavalry Regiment, 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, in September named a fitness and therapy center the Cpl. Raymond J. Leone Resiliency Training Center.“It all got started through the book,” said his widow. And his daughter attended the naming ceremony in Texas.Denise Horning, now of Vancouver, B.C., in Canada, said her father led a life devoted to health encompassing body, mind and spirit, so it is an honor his name will grace the resiliency center.Back in Nevada, her mother talks of the man to whom she was married 65 years not only as a hero, but as the light of her life.“We were high school sweethearts two years,” said the woman who waited for him to come home from the war. “He was such a wonderful person. I couldn’t have asked for a better man.”

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Nov 1, 2012 02:34AM Published Nov 1, 2012 02:29AM Copyright 2012 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.