Veteran of the Year

2021 Veteran of the Year

Tazewell County Republicans recognizes a Veteran of the Year who resides in Tazewell County; served and was honorably discharged from a branch of the U.S. military; and is consistently active in our community by involving himself or herself in causes or actions that give back and/or in some way, makes a difference in the lives of those in our community.

Ryan OrtegaRyan Ortega served in the Marine Corp at Camp Lejeume, Jacksonville North Carolina and Camp Foster, Okinawa Japan.  Ryan also served in the Marine Corp Reserves in Peoria.

From March 5, 2021 to June 19, 2021, Ryan and his son Ty bicycled across the United States of America, joined by Ryan's wife Grace, starting in Camp Pendleton in California and finishing in Camp Lejeume in North Carolina.  The 3,477 mile journey was called the Ride for Honor Flight, and raised over $13,000 for the Greater Peoria Honor Flight to send veterans to Washington D.C.

See the Veteran of the Year video

 

K9s for VeteransThe 2021 Tazewell County Republicans' Veterans Appreciation Breakfast featured a keynote speech by Daniel Black, Spokesperson for K9s for Veterans, NFP

This Chicago area organization serves veterans with PTSD by providing service dogs.  Dan's immediate call-to-action included asking supporters to request a specialty license plate from the Illinois Secretary of State which draws attention to PTSD Awareness.  If enough applications, PTSD Awareness Application, are received the plate will be manufactured serve as an inspiration to veterans that they are not alone in this 2nd battle.

See the K9s for Veterans video

 

Recent Veterans of the Year

 

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Ryan Ortega

2021 - Ryan Ortega, Corporal, U. S. Marine Corp

Ryan served in the Marine Corp at Camp Lejeume, Jacksonville North Carolina and Camp Foster, Okinawa Japan.  Ryan also served in the Marine Corp Reserves in Peoria.
 

From March 5, 2021 to June 19, 2021, Ryan and his son Ty bicycled across the United States of America, joined by Ryan's wife Grace, starting in Camp Pendleton in California and finishing in Camp Lejeume in North Carolina.  The 3,477 mile journey was called the Ride for Honor Flight, and raised over $13,000 for the Greater Peoria Honor Flight to send veterans to Washington D.C.

 

Clare Christensen

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2019 – Clare Christensen

Clare Christensen served with the National Guard during the Korean Conflict.  Following his military service, Clare continued service to his country with the American Legion, Boy Scouts, Delevan Ambulance Service, Delavan Fire Department, Delavan United Methodist Church and Delavan Community Historical Society.

 

 

 

 

Jacob Ista

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2019 – Jacob Ista

Jacob Ista served with the U. S. Army.  Following his military service, Jacob served in the Honor Guard for military funeral honors and next of kin notification.  In Jacob's barber shop, Veterans were hired, services to veterans were discounted, and clients funded Buy A Vet A Haircut program. His staff's outreach also included support for Goodwill, including the "Stand Down" where over 30 haircuts and other services are provided to veterans. 

 

 

 

 

James Vernon

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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.

Video: https://www.cmohs.org/citizen-honors/james-vernon 

Foundation Citizen Honor: http://themedalofhonor.com/citizen-honors



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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.

 

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Jason Kedzior

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. 

 

 

US_Army_Logo.jpg2013 – 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.

US_Army_Air_Corp_Logo.jpg2012 -Noah Hickman, U. S. Army Air Corps, WWII

 

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. 

US_Army_Logo.jpg2011 - 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.

US_Army_Logo.jpg2010 - 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.

US_Marine_Corps.jpg2009 - 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.

 

Other Veteran Related Links

Honor RewardsHonor Rewards

The Honor Rewards program is a Fidlar Technologies community service made available through the Tazewell County Clerk/Recorder's office to thank and acknowledge our nation’s veterans for their sacrifices to our country. This program allows veterans in Tazewell County to sign-up to receive an Honor Rewards Card and use this ID Card to receive discounts and benefits at local participating retailers, restaurants and other businesses.

Click Here to Sign Up

Additional details are available at the Tazewell County Recorders office, McKenzie Building, Suite 124, 11 S. 4th Street, Pekin, IL 61554