Elk River native, Korean War veteran will speak at Legion

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

Korean War veteran and Elk River native Russell Leighton will speak at a Veterans Day event sponsored by the Elk River American Legion.

Russell Leighton
Russell Leighton

The dinner and ceremony will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 12 — the day after Veterans Day — at the Legion, 525 Railroad Dr. The public is invited to attend. There is no charge.

A social hour begins at 6 p.m. and the dinner is at 7 p.m., followed by the ceremony.

Leighton served in the Army and was wounded during a burst of small arms fire on a Korean hillside in the fall of 1951. He received the Purple Heart.

“One of the great ironies of our generation is hearing the Korean War referred to as ‘The Forgotten War.’ There are plenty that still remember it vividly,” Leighton wrote in a summary of his service.

He said the conflict had a profound impact on him. Today, he is reminded of it by the words of thanks from a stranger, the wounds that scarred his body and a monument in Elk River that includes his name etched in stone.

Russell Leighton’s name appears on a monument at Lions Park in Elk River.
Russell Leighton’s name appears on a monument at Lions Park in Elk River.

The monument in a memorial garden at Lions Park in Elk River includes the names of Leighton and other local men who served. One of them, Ray Schwartz, never came home.

Schwartz was killed in action in Korea on Sept. 27, 1951, just four days after his 19th birthday. His photo is on the monument.

Schwartz and Leighton were two of eight schoolmates who enlisted on Feb. 8, 1951.

Leighton served three years in the Army. Besides seeing action in Korea, he was also stationed in Germany.

In an interview with the Star News in 2008, Leighton said despite his war injury, he doesn’t regret joining. He said the experience shaped him in many positive ways.