Leroy Palmer

Leroy Palmer rocks on the porch of the home he built as a bricklayer following his time in the Army.

SHREVEPORT, La. -- The Army turned Leroy Palmer away twice because he barely weighed 100 pounds. So he started laying brick in Tennessee.

Then came the Korean War. Leon was in his 20's, a few pounds heavier. And the Army drafted him.

He was lucky to make it back.

Leroy strapped a couple of belts of ammo over his shoulders, carrying the bullets for the automatic rifle another solider carried. Those belts, and a metal cigarette case in his chest pocket, may have saved him, absorbing pieces of shrapnel.

"God guided that stuff to where it wouldn't kill me," Leroy says.

Leroy's unit was retreating. His lieutenant called in air strikes. There was a mistake. His unit was hit with friendly fire. The lieutenant was among those killed. Leroy was wounded.

"I've got two little pieces in this leg. But they said it would make a bigger wound to take them out than to leave them," Leroy says.

"When that artillery came down, I raised up. The hole in front of me, I could spit in where one hit," he says of the close call.

Later, when the rifleman got sick, Leroy took over with the weapon. And Leroy's unit was overrun again.

"The enemy was coming down the mountain like wild horses," he described.

Leroy and his men were trying to outrun machine gun fire along a ditch. It was another narrow escape for Leroy.

"They hit the man in front of me. And they hit the man behind me. He let off the trigger just right to miss me," Leroy said. "I know that God brought me back from Korea for some reason. He had a purpose for me. I hope I've served it."

Leroy moved to Shreveport where a sister had a friend, and went back to brick laying.

"I laid 2,000 bricks a day at one time," he claims.

Leroy helped build local schools, stores, other buildings, and homes -- including his own in 1967 in the Pines Road area of Shreveport.

"Didn't borrow but $3,500 dollars. Paid it off in five years time," he boasts.

A happy home. A good life. After a tough couple of years at war.

"I felt bad about getting drafted in, but I don't no more. Because I fought for the best Army in the world, and some of the best people," Leroy says.

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