Aurora, Illinois – On December 23, 1966, Herschel “Lucky” Luckinbill was just that, when shells from hostile North Vietnamese shore batteries ripped through the USS O’Brien, killing two sailors and wounding four others. Luckinbill survived a near miss, as one of the deadly shells struck near his assigned sleeping berth in the crew quarters on his ship, killing one of the other sailors.
Since his coming to Illinois in 1967, the cities of Montgomery and Aurora have been lucky that Luckinbill continued to serve, not only his fellow veterans, but his community as well, as a coach and volunteer. The State of Illinois agreed with Lisa Garcia, Vice Chair of Aurora’s Veterans Advisory Council, who nominated him, and selected Herschel “Lucky” Luckinbill to be honored as the June 2014 Veteran of the Month at a ceremony at Aurora’s Prisco Community Center on Monday, June 23, 2014.
“Herschel’s contributions to his fellow veterans and his community are hugely impressive,” said Erica Borggren, Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “It’s heartening to see our veterans making a difference and serving long after they set aside the uniform. He is a wonderful example of what veterans bring back to our communities in terms of a lifelong commitment to serving others.”
Luckinbill was a Machinist Mate on the USS O’Brien (DD-725), a Sumner-class destroyer with a distinguished service record which began in World War II off the Normandy coast on D-Day. It was during his second cruise on the O’Brien in Vietnamese waters that the ship took three direct hits from North Vietnamese coastal batteries. He completed his enlistment, having earned the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze stars, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
After leaving the Navy, he entered the construction trades as a Sprinkler Fitter in the Chicago-area Fire Protection industry for 41 years, retiring in 2005. Throughout, he served his fellow veterans through a wide variety of roles, including the successful effort to bring the Vietnam Moving Wall exhibit to Aurora, and as a major fundraiser and escort for Honor Flight, escorting elderly veterans on 25 trips to Washington DC, and serving as President of the Fox Valley Veterans Breakfast Club. He also served his community as Parade Marshal for West Aurora High School Homecoming Parade and Montgomery Fest, coaching Pony League Baseball for fourteen years, and serving as President of the Oswego Jaycees.
Eva, his wife of 47 years and the Director of the Aurora Public Library, their three children and six grandchildren were all present for the ceremony.
IDVA Director Borggren presented the award, which includes a framed proclamation as well as a state flag, on behalf of Governor Pat Quinn.