Gaston Gazette, Gastonia, N.C.
By Kevin Ellis
Published: August 13, 2016
At first glance, Lekopites may not have quite looked like a hero. He told people he was 5 foot 6, but was actually closer to 5 foot 4. He was always extremely fit but never tipped the scales past 150 pounds. He carried the nickname "little Greek man."GASTONIA, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Asked what he did during his 20-year military career, Michael Lekopites had a ready, unassuming answer.
"He would say, 'I worked in communications. I climbed telephone poles,'" said Holly Pickert of Belmont, the oldest of his three daughters.
And while his girls always knew their father had done more, it was enough that he was their protector, their guardian and, if needed, their shoulder to cry on.
"He had a tough exterior with a soft heart," Pickert said.
But last year, the three girls came to realize that Alzheimer's disease was about to steal their family history. No longer could their father tell them stories of his past, or sometimes even their own names. They could pick out pieces of his story but needed help in filling the gaps.
"As kids, you don't pay attention to that stuff," Pickert said.
They turned to U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry's office for help in getting the service medals their father had earned during an Army career that started in 1962 and would include two years in Vietnam.
"I've never awarded so many medals to one individual in my 12 years of Congress," McHenry said last week.
Medals, military service commendations awarded to Michael Lekopites
Expert Badge with Rifle Bar
Sharpshooter Badge with Rifle Bar
Army Service Ribbon
Meritorious Service Medal
Valorous Unit Award
National Defense Service Medal
Legion of Merit
Good Conduct Medal
Driver and Mechanic Badge
NCO Professional Development Ribbon
Vietnam Service Medal
Army Commendation Medal
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon
Overseas Service Ribbon
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