Ruel Neal -- you may not recognize the name Ruel Neal unless you belong to LeRoy, Illinois’ American Legion Post 79. Ruel Neal is honored for having Legion Post 79 named after him after he tragically died in the muddy trenches of World War I.
Neal was born September 7, 1895 in a single story farmhouse in LeRoy, Illinois. He was the first of four children for Claude and Emily Neal. His siblings were (in order from oldest to youngest) his sister Opal, his brother Marvin (served in the Navy during WWI), and his brother Burt. In 1911 Ruel graduated from Washington High School but did not continue his formal education. Little else is know about him during this period from graduation until he was drafted. On September 19, 1917 Ruel was drafted to the 131st Infantry and soon left for Camp Dodge for training. After an unknown period of time he was transferred to Camp Logan for further training. Finally on May 22, 1918 he left for Camp Upton in France to wait for combat. Soon on July 4 he saw his first action on the front lines. Unfortunately on August 9 Neal was wounded when a machine gun bullet smashed into his shoulder. When a doctor saw Ruel’s injury he requested that Ruel be transferred to a large hospital in England, that was when Ruel Neal made a choice that changed his future forever. He politely told the doctor that “No sir, my place is at the front with my company and I won’t go back to England.” Once again Ruel found himself on the front lines in early October. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was reaching a climax, when on October 2, 1918 a shell hit the thin dugout Ruel, Max L. Kabin and another soldier were sleeping in killing Neal. Ruel was near next to the Meuse River and near a little town named Consenvoye, France. One sad part in this story is that mere days before Ruel wrote back to his parents that his dugout was sturdy and that he would be fine. Due to his bravery in battle and willingness to stay Ruel was named a Golden Star soldier. If you were a Golden Star soldier then after the war your parent would be able to see their son’s grave and be able to take his body back. Emily never traveled to France but requested Ruel’s body be transported back. After the war his body was sent back to LeRoy where his mother put his body on display in there house for five days until his burial. After the Armistice was called Congress chartered the American Legion in 1919. LeRoy soon had one and named it in honor of her first boy to die in the Great War. He is buried in Oak Grove cemetery.
What Makes this Post Unique
Two members of Ruel Neal Post 79 (Le Roy, Ill.) were honored on Dec. 10, 2018. A ceremony was held for Harlan "Pop" Bottles for 73 years of continuous membership, and Charlie Price for 70 years of continuous membership. "It is very rare for any member to achieve 70 years, and to have two members each with 70+ years is extremely rare," said Mark Young, Post 79 commander. Both members received a pin for their 70+ year membership and a plaque to honor their years of service.
Another approximately 1,500 Veterans from LeRoy are honored on the mememorial wall on the back wall of Post 79, LeRoy, Illinois.