Arnold brothers honored for service
When Jeremy Enciso played youth football in Arnold, he never knew why the stadium where he played was called George Leslie Memorial Field.
“I thought he was a politician or a fireman, maybe,” said Enciso, 37. ”I live two blocks from the school. I saw the George Leslie sign and never knew who he was.”
It wasn't until he read a recent newspaper column that Enciso learned Leslie was an Arnold resident who died in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Pvt. George G. Leslie, 20, enlisted in the Army Air Corps in April 1941 after being laid off from Alcoa, according to the New Kensington Daily Dispatch and the Valley Daily News, precursors to the Valley News Dispatch.
He was killed at Wheeler Field, the Hawaiian air base that was targeted early in the Pearl Harbor attacks to prevent American planes from engaging Japanese fighter planes.
Shocked by an attack on American soil, the United States declared war on Japan the next day and formally entered World War II.
“I've seen that sign for 35 years and never realized who he was,” Enciso said. “I think that era, that generation, the World Wars, Vietnam, Korea, people are forgetting about them.”
Enciso and his wife, Katie, want to rectify that.
They've reached out to the Castle Shannon-based Military Banner Tribute Program to have banners designed commemorating Leslie and his younger brother, Bruce E. Leslie, who also fought in World War II.
The Encisos plan to present the Leslie banners to Arnold Council on Tuesday.
They hope the Leslie brothers are the first of many veterans to be honored along the streets of Arnold, Lower Burrell and New Kensington.
Harry Munson said the banner project began in 2009 with the death of Marine Corps Sgt. Ryan Lane, 25, in Afghanistan.
After Munson and his wife, Tami, designed banners for Lane's funeral, they began to get requests: “People would come up and ask, ‘Could you do one for my son? Could you do one for my dad?' ”
Six years later, Munson estimates they've topped 5,000 banners in more than three dozen towns, including some in Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina.
The only local community involved is Plum.
Munson said any veterans, alive or dead, are eligible. They've included Civil War veterans and their son, Marine Corps Cpl. Harry A. Munson IV, who enlisted weeks after the death of his friend, Lane.
They've began a website where the banners are viewable. They're in the process of adding interactive maps that show the location of each banner and creating videos of streets lined in banners.
“It's the best thing we've ever done,” Munson said.
Enciso said he learned of the project from working in the South Hills: “There's a stretch of banners on Route 88 from Castle Shannon to Finleyville. I always wondered — why that couldn't start in Arnold?”
The Encisos' vision is to line Freeport Road and Drey Street with banners. They hope there will be support to continue the project into the neighboring cities.
“I just wanted to start something in this town that maybe people could take pride in,” Enciso said. “I want to try to bring something nice to the community.”
He also is looking to improve George Leslie Memorial Field, which sits next to Roy A. Hunt School, formerly Arnold Middle School.
Once the home of Arnold High School's football team, the field isn't used as much and has fallen into disrepair.
Acknowledging the school district is financially strapped, Enciso hopes volunteers will step forward to help repaint the bleachers, groom an overgrown hillside and restore an attached basketball court that's covered with topsoil.
His goal is to get the field in better shape and the banners hung by May, and perhaps incorporating the field into the Arnold and New Kensington Memorial Day celebrations.
Enciso referenced reports of a large turnout honoring George Leslie after the war when his body was returned to his family.
“That's another thing nobody does anymore,” Enciso said of honoring the troops. “My brother was in Iraq for 2½ years and when he came home, there wasn't even a, ‘Hey, thanks for your service.'”
He'd like to invite the surviving members of the Leslie family to Arnold for a ceremony honoring Bruce and George Leslie. Bruce Leslie died in 2004 and is survived by three children; George Leslie was not married and did not have children at the time of his death.
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.