LOCKPORT – A special medal ceremony was held today outside the Niagara County Courthouse, presenting rediscovered military medals, including a Purple Heart and Silver Star, to the family members of the late William G. Leyden of Lockport. Mr. Leyden served in WWI and was deeply involved in the American Legion, B. Leo Dolan Post 410, serving as post commander. He passed away in 1961.
Leyden was a Corporal in Company D, 307th Infantry Regiment of the 77th Division within the United States Army. He participated in the Meuse–Argonne offensive, considered the largest battle in United States history, from September 26th until November 11th of 1918. During that time, Leyden carried messages from the company headquarters to various platoons while under heavy shell fire. In the process, he was wounded, subsequently receiving a Silver Star, Purple Heart, WWI Victory Medal, and the French Croix de Guerre military decoration.
As Post Commander for Post 410 in Lockport, Leyden presented his medals at the location, and they remained there after his death, until their recent rediscovery during a cleanout after the building’s sale. After examination and research by the Niagara County Historian, Kate Emerson, William Leyden’s relatives were tracked down so that the medals could go to those for whom it would mean the most, his family.
Niagara County Clerk, Joseph A. Jastrzemski, who organized the ceremony honoring a multi-medal awardee for his bravery in battle, was deeply touched he could reconnect that legacy with the family of William Leyden. “I am exceptionally happy to see these combat medals of a World War I hero returned to where they truly belong.” He added, “Surely, William Leyden risked his life for his country, and those small tokens are a priceless commemoration of a very great man. They’re not simply an artifact or family heirlooms, they are a distinct reminder of one man’s courage and sacrifice in defense of our great nation and core values.”
Multiple family members were in attendance to receive Corporal William Leyden’s military medals. Paula Miller, Granddaughter; Jeff Miller, Husband to Paula; Amy Leyden-Achtyl, Granddaughter; Kyle Achtyl, Great Grandson; Jamie Acthyl, Wife to Kyle; Kaylee Achtyl, Great-great Granddaughter; and Barbara Mason, Granddaughter, were all present to honor the late veteran.