Three years ago today, I was in the living room of Rose Sabo Brown, just outside New Castle Pennsylvania. Brown's husband, Leslie Sabo Jr., had been killed May 10, 1970, in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. However, it had been only about 10 years earlier that Sabo Brown had found out that her late husband sacrificed his life to save dozens of his comrades.
During that time, many of those surviving comrades and others sympathetic to the cause had been campaigning for Sabo to receive the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military's highest award for combat valor. On Feb. 1, 2012, the wait came to an end. A representative of the Pentagon had called Sabo Brown a day earlier and told her to expect a phone call from a "high-ranking Defense Department official."
Taken at its word, that news was disappointing. A "high-ranking Defense Department official" would be calling Sabo Brown to tell her that her long-dead husband had been approved for the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second-highest award for combat valor. If it was the Medal of Honor, President Barack Obama would probably be delivering the news.
After swearing me to secrecy - the Pentagon representative had explicitly told Sabo Brown that no media members were to be present during the phone call because the public announcement wouldn't be made until later, but I was there as author of a self-published biography of Sabo - I was invited to sit in.
The phone rang shortly before 4 p.m., Eastern Time.
"What?" Sabo Brown said. Then, after a short pause, she said "Yes, I'll hold."
Then, she cupped her hand over the mouthpiece and mouthed a sentence that was silent, yet ended with an exclamation point.
"IT'S THE PRESIDENT."