George Gaither Leakins, Jr., was born on October 13, 1922 in Howard County, Maryland. He moved to the Sykesville area at 15, when his father, also named George, took a job at the Springfield Hospital Center as a farm laborer.
As a teenager, the younger George worked at Renehan’s Apple Butter Market, just outside town, and then as a clerk in the Harris store on Main Street. After America declared war in December of 1941, George was drafted into the army and assigned to Company E of the 39th Infantry Regiment of the 9th Infantry Division. They were called the “Fighting Falcons."
George was a combat rifleman. In 1944, four days after D-Day, he landed on the coast of France. He was lightly wounded on July 18 and sent to a hospital in England, where he met a woman named Rita Campbell, a member of the British Royal Corp of Signals, who gave George his first kiss. She also gave him two pins from her cap.
With Rita’s kiss on his mind, George crossed the Channel back from England into France. He returned to the 39th Infantry just in time to go into battle against powerful, entrenched German forces.
He was terribly wounded and left for dead in Germany’s Hürtgen Forest. They found him motionless on a patch of forest dirt, sprawled out with lots of dead Americans.
George was blind. He was comatose and covered with blood. There were shards of steel deep in his head, mostly concentrated between the eyes. There was a large hole in his forehead. But his heart was beating.
George lived most of his life with a metal plate installed in his skull. That plate, along with all the combat ribbons George earned for his service, is at the Gate House Museum in Sykesville. You can read about George in Volume One of Sykesville stories.