SPRINGFIELD –The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) has honored Ronald Stephens, a Greenville resident and US Army veteran, as its November 2012 “Veteran of the Month.”
Stephens, who retired from the Illinois House of Representatives in 2011, was honored during a ceremony today at The First Christian Church in Greenville, Ill. The Illinois Veteran of the Month award is a distinction bestowed upon military veterans who continue to serve their communities after leaving the military.
“Ron Stephens’ life is defined by his service to others,” said IDVA Director Erica Borggren. “He served his country in Vietnam, was elected to 13 terms in the Illinois House, and continues to dedicate a significant amount of time to veteran initiatives in his southern Illinois veteran community.”
Stephens served in the US Army (1969-1971) as a paratrooper with the storied 173rd Airborne Brigade. He is a combat veteran who suffered wounds to his head, arm, shoulder and hand as a result of enemy fire.
Stephens’ personal and professional achievements include:
• For his military service, he was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Combat Infantry Badge, Vietnam Service Medal with bronze service star, and Vietnam Campaign Medal with device.
• In the veteran community, Stephens has spent more than 40 years working with the VFW and American Legion to raise funds for veteran causes, plus participating in and organizing a multitude of events for fellow veterans and their families.
- He coordinated this year’s 160-mile Wounded Warrior Walk that raised $16,000 for the Wounded Warriors Project;
- Over the past 10 years, he has worked with the Marine Corps League’s Trees for Troops and Toys for Tots programs and—as an Army veteran—Stephens was honored with the Marine Corps League Honorary Membership Award;
- He has donated funds and time to the local Benjamin Mills Daughters of the American Revolution Chapter, where he teaches elementary school children about the significance of Veterans Day and the importance of respecting the US Flag, presenting all 3rd graders in the local school system with their own flags;
- Stephens also has been a prolific speaker, volunteering to give more than 200 speeches about Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Vietnam throughout Illinois.
• As a legislator and veteran, Stephens steadfastly lobbied to name particular roads and bridges in honor of veterans, in addition to his efforts to honor veterans with memorials:
- He currently is leading the charge to name a new bridge being constructed over the Mississippi River in the Metro East area as the “Veterans Bridge;” and,
- He had significant involvement in the creation of the Springfield Vietnam Veterans Memorial and has been involved in fundraising for a Women Veterans Memorial.