Aces, Vietnam vets rededicate POW-MIA seat

WWII Army veteran honored during the game with Tacoma

J.R. Stafford, left, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Sierra Nevada Chapter 989, reads information on the rededication of the POW/MIA seat at Greater Nevada Field. From Stafford’s left are former POW John Leavitt, Aces General Manager Emily Jaenson and VVA member Ray Scow.

J.R. Stafford, left, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Sierra Nevada Chapter 989, reads information on the rededication of the POW/MIA seat at Greater Nevada Field. From Stafford’s left are former POW John Leavitt, Aces General Manager Emily Jaenson and VVA member Ray Scow.
Photo by Steve Ranson.

A former Army soldier and prisoner of war became the first honoree to occupy a special chair at Greater Nevada Field.
Before the home-half of the second inning of the Sept. 5 Reno Aces-Tacoma Rainier AAA baseball game, 102-year-old John Leavitt gave a short nod and wave to the crowd at the annual Military Appreciation Night after he had been introduced. The crowd stood and cheered another member from The Greatest Generation who fought during World War II and had faced adversity.
Two years ago, the Vietnam Veterans of American, Sierra Nevada Chapter 989 in Reno and the Aces dedicated the POW-MIA (Prisoner of War-Missing in Action) chair, but the seat was not occupied for the rest of the season and during 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, Leavitt accepted the invitation as a former POW to sit in the chair along the visitor-side of the field at section 118.

Steve Ranson / LVN
Kimberly Dixon sings the national anthem.

 

Before the first dedication of the seat, J.R. Stafford, president of chapter 989, had approached the Aces with the suggestion of honoring the POWs and MIAs with a special chair. Stafford said it was a privilege in 2019 to recognize the late William “Bill” Elander, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who was a POW in North Vietnam in the early 1970s. Elander was one of several people who helped dedicate the chair in 2019. According to Stafford,  it’s important to remember those who were either captured by the enemy or declared missing in action.
Stafford said it was also an honor to recognize Leavitt. During the early fight at the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, German troops captured the Minnesota native Dec. 19, 1944, and had him transported to a POW camp somewhere in Germany. Leavitt said the cold winter was unbearable, and soldiers’ clothing wasn’t very thick.
“I lost my feeling in my fingertips and toes,” he said.
After the war ended, the Germans released their POWs, and Leavitt, who held the rank of the technical sergeant (rank was discontinued in 1948), left the military later in the year.  He later married his girlfriend.
Leavitt’s son, Jay, said the family is overwhelmed.


Steve Ranson / LVN
Retired Chief Warrant 5 Lynn (Mike) Billow throws out the first pitch.

 


“Wonderful people are doing this,” he said, citing both the Aces and the VVA for their commitment to veterans.
Aces General Manager Emily Jaenson enjoys the special games she spends with the area’s veterans
The POW-MIA chair is very important to us at the Aces and Greater Nevada Field, and we save a spot for our soldiers who are prisoners of war or missing in action,” she said. “It is an honor to work with Vietnam Veterans 989 and to honor and to rededicate the chair tonight.”
Aces President Eric Edelman said at every game, the baseball team recognizes both military personnel and first responders.


Steve Ranson / LVN
The color guard from the Nevada Air National Guard includes members, from left, Master Sgt. Javier Contreras, Maser Sgt. J.D. Escobar, Sr. Master Sgt. Javier Sosa and Master Sgt. Kylea Sherman.

 


 “It’s a very important element to honor those who served and those who serve,” he said.
Prior to the game, military personnel carried out the pregame duties of the day. Retired Army and Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Lynn (Mike) Billows, who served with Det. 45 Operational Support Airlift, threw out the first pitch, and the color guard from the Nevada Air National Guard paraded the colors. The color guard consisted of Master Sgt. Javier Contreras, Maser Sgt. J.D. Escobar, Sr. Master Sgt. Javier Sosa and Master Sgt. Kylea Sherman.
Kimberly Dixon sung the national anthem.


Steve Ranson / LVN
Army veteran and former prisoner of war John Leavitt salutes after arriving at Greater Nevada Field for a rededication of the POW/MIA seat.





Steve Ranson / LVN
The POW/MIA seat is located in section 118.

 

 


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