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A Mendon Hero Comes Home for Christmas

Mike LeBow of Mendon served a nine-month combat tour in Afghanistan. Contributed photo

This Christmas was a particularly memorable and emotional one for the LeBow family of Mendon. On December 21, Chris and Kelley LeBow received the best present they could have ever asked for; their son Michael (Mike) was home. After a nine-month combat tour in Afghanistan, the Army Specialist returned to Mendon just in time to celebrate Christmas with his family.

"I'm so proud of him," said a still emotional mom, Kelley, of her son's return. "And I'm so glad he's back in the United States."

Along with his immediate family, aunt and godmother, Debbie Cottam, was there to greet Michael at Boston's Logan Airport. She said the site of her nephew was overwhelming. "It was beautiful. We were all hugging and crying. I have never been more proud of anyone as I am of Mike."

Although Mike was incredibly excited to be home with his family and friends, his recent transition to civilian life has been a bit of a challenge. "It's been a hard adjustment, I'm getting used to everything again," he said of his recent return. "But I'm thrilled to be home."

Mike's path into the military began not long after graduating from Nipmuc Regional High School in 2009. After high school, he was accepted into Mount Ida College but not long after he began his undergraduate studies, he realized college life wasn't for him and he turned his attention to serving his country.

He said his parents were supportive of their son's decision but had some apprehensions. "My mom was pretty nervous, as any mom would be," said Mike.

Kelley said although she had enormous concerns about her son's safety, she understood his choice. "Everyone has to find their way," she said. The time her son was away was very difficult but she was able to communicate with him fairly regularly. She said, "We Skyped a lot."

During his nine months in Afghanistan, he served as a machine gunner and saw more than his share of combat. His unit was ambushed during one mission. The fighting went on continuously for hours on end. During the struggle, a fellow soldier, Tyler Jeffies, was seriously wounded. However, thanks to Michael and some of his fellow soldiers' sheer determination to fight back, Jeffries life was saved; however he sadly lost both his legs. As a result of his bravery, Mike was awarded the Arcom Medal of Valor.

In true "brotherly" spirit, Mike was very humble when discussing his medal. His thoughts were more focused on the fellow soldiers that he served with than himself, especially Jeffries. "I want to give a shout out to Tyler Jeffries," he said. "He's really recovering well. He's got two prosthetic legs now."

Mike's stay in Mendon was only for a few days before he was headed back to Fort Lewis Washington where he's stationed. Mom Kelley is relieved he's living and working on American soil and guesses her son will make the military his career. Soon, he will head to airborne training in Kentucky.

As more and more American troops continue to leave Afghanistan, Mike said his return there is not likely. However, from the sound of things, if he were asked to return, it's pretty certain he wouldn't give it a second thought.


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