Larry Leighton grew up in Lexington, Nebraska, and after high school he enrolled at the University of Nebraska. At the height of the Vietnam War in 1968 he cut short his academic career and joined the U.S. Army as an enlisted man. He applied for and was accepted to Officer Candidate School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. where he received a Reserve Officer’s commission as a Second Lieutenant of Field Artillery on February 20, 1970.
During his tour in Vietnam he was assigned as a Forward Observer (173rd Airborne Battalion) where, during a night assault on December 12, 1970, he suffered wounds for which he was awarded the Purple Heart.
Leighton continued to serve his country in the U.S. Army for over 28 years. During his career, he was selected for the Army Bootstrap program, receiving a BS in Business Administration and eventually earning an MBA from the Florida Institute of Technology. He attended the Army Command and General Staff College and National Defense University at Fort McNair, Washington, D.C. He served in several staff and command positions throughout his distinguished career. His accomplishments were recognized by both awards and ever-more challenging positions throughout the United States and abroad, including as Executive Officer for the Director of Financial Management Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics in the Pentagon. Leighton also served as the commander of the 20th Area Support Group Headquarters in Taegu, South Korea. He retired as a Colonel, U.S. Army on June 30,1996.
He forged a successful career in business and, after finally retiring for good, he embarked on another career – serving our community. A member of the American Legion Post 94 Leighton was elected Senior Vice Commander in charge of membership. He is a member and leader of Post 691, Military Order of Purple Heart and Adjutant of the Arizona Chapter. He founded Corte Bella Vets, a 501(c)(3) organization with over 200 members. The Corte Bella Vets has contributed over $110,000 to both Arizona Veteran Charities and individual veterans.
Leighton’s life has been described by those who know him as one of “silent sacrifice.” He is a quiet servant leader.
Recently, when asked about receiving the Purple Heart, he was typically modest. “It happened. It was a night patrol and I fell on a grenade.”
And when asked about his service in Vietnam, Leighton did not hesitate. “I was one of the lucky ones,” he says. “I came home intact. A lot of others who were there did not.”
When speaking with his fellow veterans he urges them to “… get out. Talk to other veterans. Work with other veterans. We have to take care of our own.”
This year’s Vietnam War Grand Marshal, Larry Leighton, is an effective but quiet force who is still in service to his country, to his community, and to his fellow veterans.
We hope you will join us at the 21st Annual Phoenix Veterans Day Parade on November 11, 2017, to see all our Veteran Grand Marshals. This year’s parade theme is “SILENT SACRIFICE: Honoring Our Cold War Veterans.” The parade typically boasts more than 100 entries, and this year will have a special float with nearly 20 Vietnam Veterans riding on it. The parade will also feature patriotic floats, high school marching bands, JROTC marching units, color guards, Veterans Service Organizations, animals, novelty units and much, much more.
For more information on the parade and the parade route, click HERE.