8-year-old fights to get WWII vet recognition he deserves

(CBS News) SALISBURY, Md. -- Whenever 87-year-old Charles Mowbray visits North Salisbury Elementary in Salisbury, Md., this World War II Navy sailor brings a boatload of stories -- like the one about how he helped rescue some men after a kamikaze attack.

Whenever 87-year-old Charles Mowbray visits North Salisbury Elementary in Salisbury, Md., the World War II Navy sailor brings a boatload of stories.
Whenever 87-year-old Charles Mowbray visits North Salisbury Elementary in Salisbury, Md., the World War II Navy sailor brings a boatload of stories.
CBS News

"And he put himself in danger for others," said 8-year-old Leanna Morris. Asked if she thought Charles was scared, Leanna replied, "I don't think so."

But how can you be in a situation like that and not be scared? Leanna answered: "Because he's brave."

Leanna is Charles Mowbray's biggest fan. Every time he visits for a living history lesson, she hangs on every word and keys on every picture. But it's what he doesn't bring that has really affected her.

A few months ago, she noticed that Mr. Mowbray doesn't have one war medal. All he's got are pictures of the ones he earned, but never received.

Charles Mowbray
Charles Mowbray
CBS News

"I thought the government would send 'em after awhile, but they didn't," he said. Asked how many years it has been, he laughed, "Sixty-seven."

He can laugh about it, but not Leanna. She still stews over it.

"Because he fought for our country and our freedom and everyone deserves something for that," she said.

Which is why, a few weeks ago, she wrote a letter to her senator, Barbara Mikulski. Two pages of heartfelt prose.

"Mr. Mowbray has been waiting for 67 years, and we don't want him to wait any longer!" Leanna wrote.

Leanna said that if the day ever came that Mr. Mowbray received the medals, it would mean "a lot."

Leanna Morris
Leanna Morris
CBS News

"I would probably throw a party," she said.

Fortunately, her school was way ahead of her on that. This week, unbeknownst to Leanna or Charles, there was an assembly planned -- because, unbeknownst to Leanna and Charles, the letter worked.

Leanna got the honor of handing Charles his medals -- an 8-year-old correcting a 67-year-old injustice.

"It was nice," Charles said. "It was worth the wait."

Any kid can learn about history, but only a rare few can fix it, too.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.

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