All Monroe Melzer wanted when he entered the American Legion Curtis G. Redden Post 210 on Monday was a bowl of chili. To his surprise, he also received an award.
Melzer was one of four people honored during a program at the Legion as part its Veterans Day activities.
The honorees were: Melzer, Commander’s Award; Hershall Lee, Lifetime Achievement Award: Kevin Cullen, certificate of appreciation; and Victor Tarquini, Legionnaire of the Year Award.
“I just came to eat chili,” Melzer said afterward, expressing his surprise at the honor.
- The Commander’s Award is given to a person, group or establishment for services to the post. In presenting the award to Melzer, Commander Frank Atwood praised him for always being available to help, whether physically or financially.
Melzer, 83, a Korean War vet, served in the Army from 1950-53 as a private first class. He was awarded three Bronze stars, three battle stars and other medals.
Lee said of Melzer, “He’s very supportive and is always there to donate time and effort. That’s a big help to the Legion.”
He was accompanied by his wife, Helen, and other family members.
- Lee, a Korean War vet, was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award, which goes to an outstanding person who has gone beyond the norm in terms of service on the local, state and national level.
Atwood said Lee does numerous duties, including making sure pictures and history of the Legion get stored. “Anytime I need something done, he says he’ll do it,” Atwood said.
Lee served in the Air Force, and recently received the Air Force Salutes Award, and has won numerous other awards. He is one of the founders of the Illinois Korean War Veterans Association.
- Tarquini, also a Korean War vet, was presented the Legionnaire Award, which is given to a person for outstanding performance within the post and the community.
He served with the Air Force from 1948-55, including in Korea from 1950-51. After leaving the service as a staff sergeant, he worked 30 years at Chanute Air Force Base.
Tarquini, who was unable to attend the ceremony, said of the award, “I’m completely in awe.” He tries to help out as much as he can around the Legion, and calls bingo, among other duties.
- Cullen of Lafayette, Ind., a former reporter with the Commercial-News who now writes a weekly column, was given a certificate for all of his hard work. He has written columns about veterans and also wrote a history of the Legion, which has been made into a pamphlet.
The certificate honors him for “outstanding service and assistance which contributed to the advancement of the American Legion programs and activities.”
With Veterans Day falling on Sunday, Atwood noted that the churches did “an excellent job making sure veterans are honored.” By holding its chili dinner/awards program on Monday, he said, veterans from the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System were able to attend.
At the ceremony/dinner Monday, students from Schlarman Academy helped out.