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He and scores of other An Lac orphans eventually reached the Army base at Fort Benning, Ga., where they were kept for about a month. The Leonards, meanwhile, had read in the newspaper about the An Lac children. Three years earlier, they had adopted an abandoned South Korean infant, Joy, and now they decided to adopt again. One midnight, Richard got a call from the adoption service: There was a boy available to be picked up. Nothing was known about the child's past or even his age. The next afternoon, after a long drive in the family station wagon from their home in Lock Haven, Pa., the Leonards, their three biological children and Joy got their first sight of Andy. He walked into the parlor at the adoption agency wearing a polyester shirt and women's shoes. His purple pants were slit in the seat, and he wore no underwear. Pinned to his lapel was a scrap of paper on which was scrawled "Leonard."
"He looked like a piece of tagged luggage," says his mother, Irene.
The Leonards named their new son Andrew. Since his birthday remains a mystery, the family celebrates it on the anniversary of the date they picked him up—May 7, 1975.
At first, communication was nearly impossible. Andy spoke no English, so the family got by with pantomime and sign language. Even so, the Leonards could appreciate the ordeal Andy had been through. "We shared a bed," says Andy's brother Peter, now 28 and a computer-industry consultant in Columbus, Ohio. "Andy had terrible nightmares. He'd roll up under the blankets in a fetal position, moaning and crying."
"And when we would sit down to meals, Andy would eat and eat, almost to the point of sickness," says Irene. "And then, when he could eat no more at the table, he would fill his pockets with food."
Andy was very frail. There was a small incline on the Leonard driveway and Andy would ride a tricycle down, then walk it back up. "I wondered why he wouldn't ride the bike up the hill," says Irene. "Then I realized that Andy was too weak to push down on the pedals." He suffered from severe ear infections that had started in Vietnam. Reconstructive surgery a year after he came to the U.S. restored Andy's hearing to near normal, but in treating him the doctors found that the infections had caused some brain damage.
Remarkably, Andy began to thrive physically. He swam for the local YMCA team, and he qualified for the state meet as an alternate in 1981. He played Little League baseball.
In 1984, Richard Leonard got a posting to State College, and the family relocated. Academically, Andy was having great trouble. "But we didn't know precisely what the problem was," says Irene. When Andy was in ninth grade, education specialists at Penn State determined that his brain damage took the form of a "language processing disability." Richard Leonard explains simply, "It's difficult for him to read and write." Even today, at 23, Andy struggles to read at a fifth-grade level.
Andy enrolled in the special-ed classes at the high school. He discovered a talent for art—his huge pencil drawing of two flamingos has hung in the family's living room for years—and for mechanics. "He can just look at a machine and figure out how it should run," says Richard. But now, even as he was beginning to accomplish things in other realms, his physical progress stalled. His fellow teens were growing, but Andy remained under five feet. He was cut from the soccer team in 11th grade. "He was really down," says Peter.
Back on the stage at the Special Olympics powerlifting competition all eyes are on the massive platters of gleaming steel collared to the bar. In the first two rounds, Leonard lifted 352 and 385 pounds as effortlessly as bags of groceries, but 402 is something else. With a big lift Leonard will win the all-around gold, which is awarded to the cumulative high scorer in both the bench press and this deadlift.