Hank Leake continued to travel the world after World War II. He was a Master Sergeant in WWII. (Dalton Carver/Collegian photographer)

By Dalton Carver
Staff reporter

Veteran’s Day means many different things to many different people. To Hank Leake, formerly a Master Sergeant of the United States Army, it meant an end to a violent war and the return to a life of travel that was familiar and comfortable.

Before he enlisted, he worked nine years with his father working in the oil industry. Hank was used to being overseas, so it wasn’t a culture shock when he joined the Army to fight in World War II. He spent three and a half combined years in England, France and Germany serving his country.

During his service, he earned the Bronze Star Medal, which is awarded to those who distinguish themselves with heroic acts or service and is the fourth highest award for bravery. In addition to this, he also received commendations for being an expert .45 pistol and rifle marksman. “Man, those guns really had a kick,” said Leake.

Despite the serious business of the Army, Leake still found time to enjoy himself and life. “While we were in Paris, it felt like there were 10 women to every man,” he said. “I was feeling pretty good about myself.”

Leake stayed in contact with those who served with him, but living so far away from Kansas, that contact was gradually lost over the years.  “Most of the people I knew well just lived so far away from Kansas,” said Leake.

Despite the fun Leake had overseas, his thoughts often strayed to his family back home. “My family said they missed me,” said Leake, smiling. “My mother would write all the time.”

Leake’s life of travel didn’t stop after the war ended. He continued to do oil work for several years. He has been married for 47 years, having children along the way.  Going back to England, he managed to see many of the famous sights he missed while serving. “My wife wanted to travel,” said Leake. “We got to see Stonehenge and Shakespeare’s birthplace.” In addition to England, he also returned to France and Germany, but the traveling didn’t stop there. Returning to work in the oil industry, he also had the opportunity to travel to Italy, Venezuela, Columbia, Greece, Libya and Argentina as well.

Leake moved into the Kansas Veteran’s Home a little more than five years ago, originally residing in Wichita. He enjoys the shows that the local American Legion puts on for Veteran’s Day. Describing himself as a happy person, he spoke more of the accomplishments and good times of the time period that he was enlisted, instead of the violence and negativity of the war that raged on during. His certificates and copies of his Bronze Star Medal commendation were held by a folder, perched upon his shelf and ready to be proudly shown. He looked often to his bulletin board, where photographs of his children and grandchildren were displayed. His bright eyes told a story that was worth much more than $150 he earned a month serving his country.

Dalton Carver is a freshman majoring in communication. You may e-mail him at dalton.carver@sckans.edu.