EAST DUNDEE – Lifelong Illinoisan and Unites States Navy Veteran John C. Blanchard was today named the State of Illinois’ November, 2008 “Veteran of the Month” for his outstanding service to the nation, and his dedication to helping Veterans, transitioning service members, youth and those in need.
“Veterans bravely served this country in defense of our freedom and liberties. Many of them, like John Blanchard, continue to give to their community long after their military service is complete. I commend John for his continued effort to improve the lives of so many Illinoisans, especially our Veterans,” said Governor Blagojevich.
The Governor’s “Veteran of the Month” award is a distinction that is given monthly to military Veterans who give back to their community and other Veterans. On behalf of the Governor, Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) Director L. Tammy Duckworth, presented Blanchard with the award this afternoon during a special ceremony at the Milk Pail in East Dundee.
“John Blanchard is a man who served the people of this country in uniform and now continues to volunteer his time serving others. He has dedicated his life to service and making sure that his fellow comrades get the help they need. John is a perfect example of the type of individual that the Veteran of the Month award is designed to honor and I am proud that today, we honor him with the ‘Veteran of the Month’ award,” said IDVA Director Duckworth.
Blanchard, a third generation member of the military and second generation United States Navy Veteran, proudly served from 1979-1986 during the Beirut conflict as a fleet sailor. For his military service, Blanchard received several Navy Expeditionary Medals and several Sea Service Medals and Ribbons.
In 1999, Blanchard created the National Association of Systems Administrators Education Corporation (NASA Education) to provide tuition for underprivileged, deserving individuals interested in pursuing careers in the Information Technology industry. In the spring of 2005, Blanchard decided to focus entirely on Veterans and launched Project Fresh Start – a comprehensive workforce and community reintegration program for Veterans who are newly discharged, displaced, disabled, homeless or otherwise in transition. The goal of the program is to help these Veterans gain employment and live independently.
In the past year, under Blanchard’s leadership, NASA Education has grown tremendously and helped hundreds of Veterans. A few examples include: acquiring and renovating two apartment buildings to serve as transitional housing for 32 homeless Veterans while they participate in Project Fresh Start and get back on their feet; expanding its auto mechanics training facility so that the Veterans pursuing an auto mechanics career path can quickly and efficiently repair donated vehicles. The repaired vehicles are then issued to the Veterans upon completion of their education so they will have transportation to their new jobs. The group has also helped create several businesses owned by service disabled Veterans.
Twice a year, NASA Education organizes and hosts Stand Downs for homeless Veterans. Stand Downs are multiple day events providing a variety of services to homeless Veterans including free food, shelter, clothing, health screenings, VA and Social Security benefits counseling, and referrals to a variety of other necessary services. Blanchard has donated many hours of his time organizing these Stand Downs.
In addition to his work with NASA, Blanchard serves as the Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 5915 in Carpentersville, where he previously served as the Post’s Junior Vice Commander and member of the Color Guard.
Blanchard also produces a television show devoted to Veterans’ issues on Comcast called “Muster America”.
For his dedication to serving Veterans, Blanchard was recently presented with the 2008 Congressional Medal of Distinction, and was the recipient of the 2008 McHenry County Economic Development Corporation Business Champion Special Award.
Blanchard is a true advocate and leader for the Veteran community, serving those who he fought beside. He often attends memorial and funeral services of Veterans showing his support to the family members. Blanchard regularly visits the local nursing home and Elgin Mental Health facility visiting Veterans and assisting with bingo, gift drives, and other celebrations. Blanchard is also a key participant in heading up a Veterans’ committee to help upkeep the local Veteran memorials and to plan for additional memorials in the future.
In addition to his commitment to the state’s Veterans, Blanchard is devoted to helping anyone in need. When disaster strikes, whether in his own county with flooding or in other states, Blanchard has answered the call to duty. He has volunteered many hours sandbagging cresting riverbanks, and assisting hospitals in keeping their medical systems running when hurricanes or other natural disasters occur. He is also associated with Angel Flights and has helped many individuals get to places that they may not have been able to.
Blanchard also volunteers to help the local elderly community. Working with the Village of Carpentersville on home safety for senior citizens, Blanchard helps to ensure that local seniors are living safely within their homes by doing wellness checks and making sure they have dependable, working smoke detectors and furnaces.
Blanchard also volunteers his time with the local food pantries where he unloads trucks and donates food contributions. He also organizes blood drives and assists with the needy basket program to help those in need during the holidays.
Blanchard is also involved in the youth community, participating with the Cub Scouts of America. He also regularly speaks to children at local schools, sharing his stories of the military and raising awareness of the current state of the military, war and the millions of Veterans in need.
The “Veteran of the Month” award highlights the work of community activists who are also military Veterans. Each month, on behalf of Governor Blagojevich, the Department recognizes a different person or group that contributes to the betterment of communities across the state of Illinois. To nominate a “Veteran of the Month,” please visit IDVA’s website at veterans.illinois.gov or call IDVA at (312) 814-5538 to obtain a list of guidelines and a nomination form.