Hometown Hero Leslie Patin

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 25, 2019

By Bayleigh Swanton

The Orange Leader


On his seventeenth birthday, on January 19, 1950, Leslie Patin, of Orange, enlisted in the United State Navy unknowing, that because of that one decision, his life would be changed forever.

Patin served in the United States Navy from the ages of 17 to 21 in what is called a “Kiddie Cruise,” where people who enlist in the Navy before the age of 18 are required to serve until their 21 birthday.

During his time of service, Patin served in the Korean War and after his years in the military was award a Medal of Honor presented by Korea, showing gratitude to Patton for his service.

“Not everybody gets that,” Patin said. “I only know a small, small handful of people who have gotten it. It’s an honor. I wouldn’t trade my time in the service.”

Once Patin was old enough to enlist in the military, he decided he would be dropping out of high school to go off into the Navy. Once Patin enlisted in 1950, he decided to go onto become a radarman where he would be detecting other boats, submarines, and missiles from any enemies.

“When it got to my 17 birthday, I got antsy and I said ‘I got enough of this, I’m going to join the Navy,” Patin said. “So, I dropped out of high school, against everyone’s advice, to join the Navy.”

Patin was born in 1933 in Port Arthur, Texas and spent most of his childhood in the area. Where he met his childhood sweetheart and the love of his life, Maxine. Halfway through his service Patin came home to marry his childhood sweetheart, moving her to Boston with him and soon after had their first daughter.  

Patton shows off his Medal of Honor

“[Maxine] was in Boston by herself taking care of our premature baby,” Patin said. “She was barely 17, she did a beautiful job, a fine mother. I am so blessed.”

Patin and Maxine were married for 65 years until she passed about a year ago.

Patin and Maxine had four kids and many grandkids and great-grandkids. Patin is a very family-oriented man and was constantly thinking about his family back home during his time overseas.
Patin said one of the hardest parts of his service was being away from his family for long periods of time.

“My favorite time [during service] was coming home to get [Maxine],” Patin said. “That led up to us living on the East Coast, in Rhode Island and Boston together. It was a great adventure. That was one of my favorite times, some of my favorite memories. I just loved my wife and family and wanted to be there with them.”

After his tour, Patin came back to the area in hopes of attending college to become an electrical engineer. Although he was a high school dropout, Patin was given a chance to earn his degree at Lamar University and graduated in three and a half years. Patin attributes a lot of his schooling success to the education he received during his service.

Having to work multiple jobs to meet the bills to pay for college and his new family Patin experienced many hard times, that he now sees as good memories, looking back.

“Before I graduated, we had three children,” Patin said. “[Maxine] kept them off my back, took care of everything while I studied and worked two or three jobs at night so we could make the bills. I was bagging groceries and driving cabs in the red light district of Port Arthur, which was an interesting thing for a young sailor. Those are good memories, but they were hard times”

Very humbled and thankful to God for all of his experiences, Patin had mixed emotions once he received his Medal of Honor after the Korean War.

“My first feeling was ‘What did I do to deserve that?”’ Patin said. “It was just a thought, it was no biggie. But then after I got to thinking about it, it’s a good thing. It’s an honor and a great thing to receive. Think about all the thousands of veterans who were over there, living, dying and wounded who don’t have this, or don’t even know about it. It just comes back to ‘Why me?’”

USS Wadleigh DD 689

Patin was promoted quickly during his time in service and was running a Combat Information Center as a First Class Petty officer by the end of his tour.

He gives the Navy a lot of credit for the many life lessons he had learned throughout the many years, and thanks to God every day for all the blessings and opportunities given to him.

“I learned to be patient all along the way,” Patin said. “To just take advantage of everything sent to me, that’s really what I learned in the service.”

Patin says he wouldn’t trade his time in the service for anything, and his thanks for the long life that has come from it.

“I’m very happy with my life,” Patin said. “I’m happy with how it turned out. I’m happy for what I went through, and I wouldn’t change a thing. That is really the summary of my life.”