2018 Veteran of the Year
The 2018 Tazewell County Veteran of the Year is James Vernon. At the annual Veterans' Breakfast at the Knights of Columbus, James was recognized for his act of heroism during an attack at the Morton Public Library on October 13, 2015. Chairman Jim Rule, a U. S. Navy veteran, explained that veterans embraced a "Code" during their service that explains why many veterans continue service to their community and country long after the end of active duty. James is an exemplary example of this continuing service.
Recent Veterans of the Year
2018 – James Vernon, U. S. Army
James served in the U. S. Army in the early 1960’s including service in Germany where he met his wife Hanna. James was selected for his act of heroism on October 13, 2015. As is the case with many veterans, the “Code” embraced during active duty compels veterans to continue community service after active duty. While James was leading a chess club at the Morton Public Library, an attacker with a knife entered the library. James intercepted the attacker, allowing 16 children and their parents to escape the library unharmed. Even though James was injured during his defense of the children, he was successful in restraining the attacker until the police took the attacker into custody.
The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation recognized James by awarding him their Citizen Honor for Single Acts of Heroism.
Foundation Citizen Honor: http://themedalofhonor.com/citizen-honors
2015 - Clifford Hasselbacher, Sergeant, U. S. Army, WWII
For Clifford's service in WWII, he received decorations for his service in France and a Battle Star for the Battle of the Bulge. His European Theater service started in Northern Ireland and continued to England, France, Germany and Austria. His career was an armorer: issuing and maintaining weapons, ammunition and combat vehicles. His unit was less than 5 KM from being overrun by the German forces at the Battle of the Bulge, and was saved by the Third Army led by General George S. Patton.
He is one of the best known and beloved people in Morton, including 55 years associated with the Morton Community Bank.
2014 – Jason Kedzior, Sergeant, U. S. Army, Iraq
For Jason's service in Iraq he received the Army Commendation Medal with V Device for Valor in Operation Ridgeline; Combat Infantryman; the Army Good Conduct Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Medal; the Iraq Campaign Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Overseas Deployment Medal; the Air Assault Badge; and the Expert Marksmanship Badge. He declined two Purple Hearts.
He continued his service as a Tazewell County Deputy.
2013 – Danny Haley, U. S. Army, Vietnam
For Danny's service in the Vietnam War he received the Vietnam Service Medal; the Vietnam Campaign Medal; the Army Commendation Medal, and the Bronze Star Medal.
He has been a leader in the Vietnam Veterans of Illinois, and their building in Sunnyland has been named for him; he is an honor guard rider; and he has been active with the Honor Flights to send WWII veterans to see their Memorial in Washington, D.C.
2012 -Noah Hickman, U. S. Army Air Corps, WWII
(Details regarding his WWII service will be added)
Noah continued his service as a teacher and coach in Hamilton, Illinois and at Washington High School; on the Washington Park District Board and as a counselor at Illinois Central College.
2011 - William Lee Martin, U. S. Army, Vietnam
For William's service in the Vietnam War, he received the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, and 2 overseas bars.
He has been heavily involved in the Illinois Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Springfield from its inception, helping coordinate the annual vigil at the Memorial; is a member of the American Legion Riders; is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars; is a member of the American Legion; and is a member of the Vietnam Veterans of Illinois. He has coordinated the East Peoria and Peoria Veteran’s Day Parades and volunteers at the Peoria VA Clinic. In 2009, he received the General Wayne A. Downing Award for Service to Veterans, given by Goodwill Industries.
2010 - Larry Stimeling, U. S. Army, Vietnam
A disabled veteran, for his service in Vietnam Larry was awarded the National Defense Medal; the Vietnam Service Medal; Vietnam Campaign Medal; the Good Conduct Medal; and the Army Commendation Medal.
He served as the District 16 Commander for the American Legion, a Commissioner on the Tazewell County Veterans Assistance Commission, a State Director for the “Order of the Silver Rose”.
He was instrumental the World War I and World War II Memorial in Peoria; in bringing the traveling Vietnam wall to Peoria and Morton; and spearheaded the “Banner Project” here in Morton to place the names of Morton residents currently serving in the military on Metal banners in their hometown. These banners are located along the north side of Courtland Avenue and bear the Names, Branch of Service, and Duty Station of our local military personnel.
He is the author of the book “From The Wall”, a compilation of stories and information about some of the 58,282 men and women whose names are on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
2009 - Lester John Roth, Sergeant, U. S. Marine Corp, WWII
His service included Tinian, Saipan, and Iwo Jima, Lester received the Bronze Star Medal for bravery, courage and devotion for a hazardous task on Saipan.