Today is Veteran’s Day, and Idaho National Laboratory joins the nation in honoring our military veterans for their service. INL has employed many former service members over the years, and while each of them deserves to be commended for their part in protecting our nation and its ideals, one stands out in particular – Idaho Falls native and Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant David Bleak.
Born on Feb. 27, 1932, Bleak enlisted in the Army in November 1950 after spending time working on farms and railroads around Idaho. His unit was called up for deployment in the Korean War shortly after his enlistment, and he arrived in South Korea in early 1952. In his role as a medic, Bleak was tasked with treating the wounded, often amid intense combat.
On June 14, 1952, Bleak accompanied a reconnaissance patrol as they engaged enemy units near Minari-gol. Under heavy enemy fire, Bleak attended to the wounded before entering a trench and neutralizing several enemy soldiers in close quarters combat. Moving quickly, he then shielded a member of the patrol from a concussion grenade, saving his fellow soldier’s life. Bleak was hit by enemy fire as he continued to treat injured soldiers, but still managed to evacuate one of the wounded. As he carried his comrade down a precarious, rugged hill, he was engaged by two enemy soldiers. Acting fast, he successfully eliminated the threat at close range before moving the wounded soldier to safety.
For these heroic actions, Bleak was awarded the Medal of Honor on Oct. 27, 1953, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. After retiring from the Army as a staff sergeant, Bleak worked several jobs in Wyoming and Idaho, including operating a dairy farm, before joining INL as a janitor in 1963. Through dedication and a commitment to continuous improvement, Bleak eventually became chief hot cell technician, retiring in 1995.
Bleak passed away in 2006, but his legacy lives on. A medical clinic at Fort Sill in Oklahoma is named for him, and recently, a road just outside INL’s Materials and Fuels Complex was renamed in his honor. We’re grateful for Bleak’s service as well as his impressive contributions as an INL employee. We hope you’ll take some time today to thank the veterans in your family and community.