MOUNDSVILLE, W. Va. (WTRF)

The Moundsville Extension is now the Corporal Leonard Joe Zelaski Jr. Memorial Road.

In his hometown, they knew him as Joe.

He was born in 1948 and died in 1968, at age 20.

He had joined the Marines, not even having finished high school, and was killed in Vietnam.

Friends and family gathered Friday as the sign was dedicated in his honor, so no one would forget his sacrifice.

“He was kind of quiet,” recalled his classmate, Teri Voorheis of Moundsville. “He was in my history class. And all of a sudden he wasn’t there. And they told us he had quit school and joined the Marines. He was killed right when we all should have graduated. It was quite a loss. It was a difficult time when we were in school.”

“His tour of duty was nearly up and he’d already committed to re-enlist,” said his cousin, Andy Zaleski of New York. “That’s how much he loved being in the military.”

“They’re the ones that gave us all our freedoms we have right now,” said W. Va. Delegate Charlie Reynolds. “We can’t forget ‘em. And they were afraid that Joe was gonna be forgotten. And when I got in office, I knew that we couldn’t forget ‘em.”

Joe’s relatives no longer live in Moundsville.

His cousins came in from New York, and friends and classmates from Moundsville turned out.

And the Moundsville Veterans Honor Guard gave him a solemn salute.