82 YEAR OLD AMERICAN KNIGHT-ERRANT WOUNDED IN IRAQ
In 1932, when only five years old, Robert X. Leeds bought a package of chewing gum with a trading card in it. On the card was a picture of a Japanese soldier holding his rifle upright and on its bayonet was the body of a Chinese baby.
He showed the picture to everyone, but nobody seemed to care. He couldn't understand how the world could let such atrocities occur. America didn't care. Europe didn't care. The League of Nations sent letters to the Japanese government, but they didn't care! Within two years, the Japanese murdered 300,000 innocent Chinese men, women, and children. Twenty thousand young Chinese girls from ages six and older were raped and many put into brothels for the Japanese troops. Not wanting to "waste" the precious lead bullets, the Japanese murdered these innocent people by hacking them to death with their swords, bayoneting them, or impaling them on bamboo lances. No one else seemed to care. He did.
Five years later, Leeds was stricken with a heart disease and confined to his bed for over a year. One day the milk man brought him a box full of used books collected from neighbors. He read them all, but two books changed his life forever; King Arthur and The Round Table and a 500 year old book titled Don Quixote. King Arthur was an entertaining book, but Don Quixote, the story of an elderly, senile man who wanted to return the Age of Chivalry to current times, was more than just entertainment to Robert. It was an indelible lesson in Honor, Loyalty, Virtue, Valor, Chivalry, Courage, Discretion, Modesty, Consideration, and Compassion and these qualities were branded into his consciousness. These were the threads that constituted the warp and weave from which the cloth of his Knighthood would be woven.
At the age of ten his heart defect mysteriously disappeared. Released from the bonds of paralysis, he fashioned a sword out of some discarded wood and took the first step in becoming a Knight. He put the point of the sword into the ground, placed his forehead against the hilt and took a Knight's oath of allegiance.
To slay dragons anywhere; to rescue maidens in distress; and
to favor those in need and those oppressed everywhere."
Seventy two years later he still lives by that code.
When WWII broke out, Robert served in the Civil Air Patrol Parachute Squadron when only 16 years old. He fell 7,000 feet without a functioning parachute and walked away uninjured. At seventeen he enlisted in the United States Air Force. Seeing the war was coming to completion before he could complete the pilot training program, he obtained a three month Leave-Of-Absence and joined the Merchant Marines. His ship was sent to Eniwetok to join the Invasion fleet for the Philippine Islands. After three months in the South Pacific, he rejoined his squadron and was honorably discharged in 1945.
His next effort led him to assisting the natives of Madagascar in a revolt against the French colonial government after which he went to China to fight for Chiang Kai-shek. In early 1948, he volunteered to go to Palestine to establish a parachute packing school for the Jewish underground. When war broke out, he began flying with the Israeli Airforce and in July, 1948, he was sent to Czechoslovakia to study airborne command tactics and to train a group of young refugees into a Paratroop Brigade. (His plane was shot down over Albania and crash landed in Czechoslovakia.) He returned to Israel and established a paratroop training school in Haifa. At 21 years of age, Leeds trained and commanded the First Israeli Airborne Brigade.
The obligations of family and existence caused him to miss Viet Nam and Korea, but when America went to war in Iraq, he invoked his Knight-Errant pledge again.
In December, 2008, at the age of 81, Leeds received permission to embed with the First Cavalry Division in Iraq. He left America on January 2nd, and celebrated his 82nd birthday flying in a Blackhawk Helicopter from Baghdad to an outpost near the Iranian border. In the next four months, he went on approximately sixty-five missions and was the oldest warrior serving with the armed forces. After three near misses, on March 7th, on a patrol in Baquba, his Stryker vehicle was struck by a Russian type rocket propelled grenade. Of the five injured men, four went to the hospital, but, fearing he'd be taken off the active duty roster, he insisted his wounds were minor and would not restrict his performance. Despite a loss of hearing and other injuries, he went back on patrols two days later.
Unfortunately, after a few weeks, in addition to his other injuries, he developed horizontal vertigo and short-term memory loss. Unwilling to put his other platoon members at risk, Robert requested an early release and returned to America to seek medical treatment and to complete his autobiography, "THE LAST KNIGHTS-ERRANT", a tribute to America's armed forces. On April 25, 2009, at age 82, Knight-Errant Robert X. Leeds returned to Las Vegas, the oldest person to have served his God, his Country, and his Sovereign in Iraq.
Robert sees "DON QUIXOTE" as a metaphor. The "dragons" we all must challenge are the problems we face in our everyday lives. They are also the Bin Ladens, Husseins, and Achmadinijads who will overwhelm us if we fail to confront and conquer them.
His military awards include citations for "SERVICE ABOVE AND BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY" and "HEROISM AND COURAGE WITHOUT HESITATION." His book is scheduled for release in December 2009.
For further information or interviews contact:
Robert X. Leeds
1405 Ten Palms Court
Las Vegas, NV 89117-1404
|Publication Date: TBA|