Leonard L. Alvarado SP4 U.S. ARMY – Tall in stature, tall in courage

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Lenora Alvarado w Barack 3Aug2014

Lenora Alvarado, Specialist Alvarado’s daughter


Alvarado was born in Bakersfield, California on February 13, 1947, and enlisted in the U. S. Army on July 25, 1968, serving in the Vietnam War. He was killed in action, leaving behind his wife and a young daughter.  Specialist Alvarado’s daughter never had the chance to know her father. She was ten months old when he was killed. All she has to remember him by are pictures and stories told by others.

Lenora Alvarado was named after her father and was just a baby when he died in the line of duty. Her father is remembered fondly by those who served with him, and Lenora is honored to celebrate his heroism.

Lenora, although she was too young to know her father, learned from relatives, friends and those who served with her father that he  was very respected and loved by all who knew him.

He was just 22 when he died fighting in Vietnam. Now 45 years after his death, Specialist Alvarado is being awarded the Medal of Honor.
“I just never imagined it was this big, it was the highest that can be bestowed. I just never imagined when I received the call I was just floating on the clouds,” said Lenora.

Alvarado’s daughter Lenora accepted the Medal of Honor on his behalf in 2014.

Alvarado distinguished himself on August 12, 1969, while serving as a rifleman during a mission to relieve a sister platoon, in Phuoc Long Province, Vietnam. Alvarado was killed in action after disrupting an enemy raid and saving the lives of several comrades.

Alvarado’s daughter Lenora accepted the Medal of Honor on his behalf from President Barack Obama in a March 18, 2014 White House ceremony.

The award came through the Defense Authorization Act which called for a review of Jewish American and Hispanic American veterans from WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War to ensure that no prejudice was shown to those deserving the Medal of Honor.

Leonard Alvarado was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. In 2002 a review of the DSC awards was called for by Congress, and his award was one of 24 DSCs upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

In 1969, during a mission to relieve a beleaguered American platoon in Phuoc Long Province, Vietnam, Alvarado moved through hostile machine-gun fire and was wounded by an enemy grenade. He killed the grenadier, was wounded again, and crawled forward to pull several comrades to safety. His gunfire silenced a machine-gun position and he continued fighting even after he was knocked down repeatedly by exploding satchel charges. His body was found after the firefight ended.


                                          AWARDS AND CITATIONS

                                                  Medal of Honor


  • medal_of_honor1 Army 9Mar14The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Specialist Fourth Class Leonard Louis Alvarado, United States Army, for acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Rifleman with Company D, 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) during combat operations against an armed enemy in Phuoc Long Province, Republic of Vietnam on 12 August 1969. On that day, as Specialist Four Alvarado and a small reaction force moved through dense jungle en route to a beleaguered friendly platoon, Specialist Four Alvarado detected enemy movement and opened fire. Despite his quick reaction, Specialist Four Alvarado and his comrades were soon pinned down by the hostile force that blocked the path to the trapped platoon. Specialist Four Alvarado quickly moved forward through the hostile machinegun fire in order to engage the enemy troops. Suddenly, an enemy grenade exploded nearby, wounding and momentarily stunning him. Retaliating immediately, he killed the grenadier just as another enemy barrage wounded him again. Specialist Four Alvarado crawled forward through the fusillade to pull several comrades back within the hastily-formed perimeter. Realizing his element needed to break away from the hostile force, Specialist Four Alvarado began maneuvering forward alone. Though repeatedly thrown to the ground by exploding satchel charges, he continued advancing and firing, silencing several emplacements, including one enemy machinegun position. From his dangerous forward position, he persistently laid suppressive fire on the hostile forces, and after the enemy troops had broken contact, his comrades discovered that he had succumbed to his wounds. Specialist Four Alvarado’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness at the cost of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.
  • General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 3942 (October 23, 1969)

    Action Date: August 12, 1969

    Service: Army

    Rank: Specialist Fourth Class

    Company: Company D

    Battalion: 2d Battalion

    Regiment: 12th Cavalry Regiment

    Division: 1st Cavalry Division


// Barack Obama //             President


In addition to the Medal of Honor, Alvarado  also received a Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal with “V” Device, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with “60” Device, Valorous Unit Award, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm Device, Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Medal Unit Citation First Class, Combat Infantryman Badge and the Expert Marksmanship Badge with Rifle, Auto Rifle and Machine-Gun Bars.

A posting on the Virtual Vietnam Veterans Wall, says, “I was Leonard’s platoon leader beginning sometime in March of 1969 until his death on August 12th. I recommended him for the DSC based on his extraordinary actions that night.

“His actions in the face of the enemy were always extraordinary. He was already a legend in our outfit, as I learned shortly after I took over the platoon, and he was the only enlisted soldier to have a firebase named for him, “LZ Alvarado” (all the other firebase names were chosen randomly, much like hurricane names).

“He never hesitated to go in the path of danger, as if it was his calling.

“Early in the fight on the night of August 12, he took his M60 machine gun and his ammo bearer and attacked the enemy unit that was attacking us, breaking up their attack and saving many lives, possibly including mine.

“When he was wounded, one of my sergeants and I went to pull him to safety and into the hands of our platoon medic. He was in our arms when he died, and I think we probably heard his last words.”

“It was a privilege to have him in my platoon, and it would be the wish of any army that they could train all of their soldiers to be half what Alvarado was,” said Steve Koppenhoefer, Alvarado’s platoon leader.

Specialist Alvarado’s platoon and squad leaders say he was a hero who gave his life to protect the lives of his brothers. The ultimate display of courage, which his daughter can be very proud of.

SP4 Leonard L. Alvarado is buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in northeast Bakersfield California.


The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.

If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.





  1. SP4 Leonard L Alvarado was born in Bakersfield to his mother Beatrice, a farm worker. Leonard reason for joining the army was so that she didn't have to work so hard like she did. He was the youngest of 7 children. He graduated from East Bakersfield High School. He has 5 living sisters who love him, took care of him and watched him grow. They still morn his death. His mother passed away on 6/6/2011 at age 99 1/2 y.o. As her wish she was laid to rest with him. She wrote to the White House every year from 1969 asking each President in office to please give him the medal of honor. It came to late and without honor. SP4 Alvarado's family was not allowed to attend the ceremony. He was never married and he has an oldest son named after him. (Leonard L. Alvarado, JR) He was a proud man who would never accept charity. He loved animals, he was kind and a hero to all those who love him. He has several nieces and nephews who enlisted in the military because of him. He has always been our hero. His mother never got over losing him.

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