Congressman Adam Kinzinger honored six veterans who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Their service didn't end there.
These six men also set up a food station for flood victims, served as a volunteer firefighter, influenced legislation to help other veterans, fought to keep drugs off the streets and ran successful businesses, respectively.
Eugene Thompson, of Marseilles; William Phillips, of LaMoille; Clifford Parker, of Ottawa; Francis Killelea, of Ottawa; Michael Ebert, of Morris; and Lowell Wagner, who was not present Thursday, were given Congressional commendation from Kinzinger on Thursday at Ottawa City Hall.
"The six veterans have served this country honorably and fought for the freedoms we hold dearly. These men answered their country's call during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War," said Kinzinger to a crowd of dozens of the veterans' family and friends. "They served with honor and distinction."
"After these veterans served their country, they came home to serve their communities," the congressman said. "They're civic leaders, they're active citizens, and many continue to serve their military brothers and sisters in veteran service organizations. Although their mission has changed since returning to civilian life, their leadership and tenacity have not."
Ebert said service doesn't end for veterans when they are discharged.
"(The congressman) is recognizing the fact that everyone served, and continued to serve," Ebert said.
Parker was moved by the ceremony, choosing to share a message to the crowd when he received his commendation.
"God bless you," he said. "And God bless our troops."
He added after the ceremony he also wanted to say "God bless America."
"I love this country," Parker said. "I'd do it all again, but they wouldn't take me now because I'm too old."
Killelea said he was appreciative of the ceremony and those in attendance.
"It's quite an honor," he said.
Kinzinger's office took recommendations on who would receive honors from throughout the district.
The congressman said Thursday it was his hope the six men who were honored will inspire the next generation to serve their country.
"The recipients of this commendation serve as the embodiment of both military and civil service," he said.
State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, and Democratic challenger for the 16th District seat Sara Dady also were in attendance Thursday.
Ebert served in the Army from 1965 to 1970. He was stationed in both Korea and Vietnam. He was awarded the Bronze Star. After his time in the service, he became a career special agent with the U.S. Department of Justice, working with what's now known as the DEA. Since he retired in 2008, he volunteered many hours to Immaculate Conception in Morris. He is a life member of VFW Post 1649 Morris and has been post commander.
On July 15, 1942, he served in the U.S. Army European theater during World War II. During his service, he discovered the crown jewels of Austria, and is responsible for returning them to the Austrian government. He earned numerous awards, including the Bronze Star. After his return in 1946, he opened an Ottawa car dealership for more than 30 years. He is a member of St. Columba Church, the Ottawa Knights of Columbus, the VFW Post 2470 and the American Legion Post 33. He celebrated his 98th birthday this past June.
He enlisted in 1955 during the Korean War. Nearly 3 1/2 of those years were spent performing duties on the Mediterranean and Caribbean seas. After he discharged with the Navy, he worked for Caterpillar for 36 years. He is a 58-year member of American Legion Post 33. He has served as commander 11 times. He has worked with the local Boy Scouts. He is a charter/life member of Ottawa River Rescue and served 36 years as a volunteer fireman.
From 1965 to 1966, he served 12 months on aircraft transporting infantry and supplies to the battle zones and on a medivac during hot zone recoveries. After discharge in 1967, he worked at Caterpillar for more than 35 years. He joined several service organizations, including the Moose, AmVets and American Legion. He is a life member of the Mendota Post 4079, where has been the post commander. He was elected VFW Department of Illinois state commander. He was directly involved in the passage of an enhanced post-9/11 GI bill for veterans benefits.
He enlisted in the Army National Guard prior to the Korean War. He was activated in 1951 and served in the infantry division until the armistice was signed in 1953. He rejoined with the National Guard, retiring with the rank of master sergeant. He joined the Marseilles American Legion Post 235, in which his father, a World War I veteran, was a charter member. He served as post commander and he was elected state American Legion commander in 2006. During the 2013 flood that devastated Marseilles, he and his wife set up a food preparation station that served thousands of meals to victims and first responders. The Marseilles post was named into the American Legion Hall of Fame thanks to his work.
Wagner served in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946. During the war, Wagner was a seabee in the South Pacific and spent time in the heavily defended Japanese island of Okinawa as it was being invaded by American forces. He took part in numerous community activities in Boone County. At 94, he still supports his country in various ways, Kinzinger said.