Marine Corps veteran and Navy Cross recipient Justin “J.D.” LeHew is this week’s special guest in a new episode of The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast.
LeHew, an American Legion member who played Legion Baseball as a youth, is the first post-Vietnam War national commander of The Legion of Valor. The nonprofit, which was founded in 1890, is the nation’s oldest veterans service organization. The Legion of Valor is open to recipients of the Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross or Distinguished Service Cross.
“The Legion of Valor was created to help these veterans, the ones who held the Medal of Honor at the time, and the Navy Cross, Air Force Cross and Distinguished Service Cross,” he said. “Those are awarded for actions that people performed on the worst day of their life. Every single one of those medals carries a large amount of death around them. I have never met a single person who would not give that medal back to save one more life, or to have one more father or son or daughter come home.”
He learned the value of military service at an early age. He was the youngest of five children in a military family, growing up near Lima, Ohio.
“I come from a small town in Ohio, and service and sacrifice were around every corner,” he said. “The town was so small and had a rich military history that everywhere you turned, someone had served or someone was going to or coming from the military. I kind of wanted what they had.”
LeHew is also the chief operating officer of History Flight, a private, POW-MIA search and recovery organization. It has spearheaded the recovery of nearly 400 missing U.S. servicemembers, leading to more than 160 positive identifications thus far.
His commitment to those still unaccounted for led LeHew to participate in Team Long Road last year. He completed the 3,360-mile walk across the U.S. along the Medal of Honor freeway with a 40-pound pack.
“Just take one more step, keep moving,” he advised. “There are good days, there are bad days.
LeHew wanted to raise awareness about the POW-MIA flag and, in turn, the 81,000 servicemembers still missing. (More about the walk in this Q&A with LeHew.)
“We decided we were going to take the time and walk across America,” he said. “Not drive across America, everybody does that. Not ride a bike across America. No one walks across America because it takes a lot of time, energy and effort, and most importantly, it is excruciating painful to your body.”
Also on the episode, hosts Jeff Daly and Ashley Gutermuth offer their thoughts on:
• A retired Marine who now works with Hollywood types on improving the reality portrayed in military movies.
• Why the Army’s top enlisted soldier called out senior leaders.
• A fortuitous encounter between a food delivery driver and a brigadier general.
Check out this week’s episode, which is among more than 180 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on iTunes, Google Play or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available at the Legion’s YouTube channel.