CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) named John H. Geiger, a past National Commander of the American Legion, as the May 2010 Veteran of the Month at a dinner held in his honor on May 1.
The Illinois “Veteran of the Month” award is a distinction that is given to military Veterans who give back to their community and continue to serve other Veterans. IDVA Director Dan Grant presented the award to Geiger at a dinner in his honor attended by more than 300, including family, friends and other Legionnaires. Geiger, 84, an Army Veteran, lives in Des Plaines.
“John Geiger has made a tremendous contribution to our country through his service in the United States Army, and continues to serve his community, other Veterans and the nation through his outstanding work with the American Legion,” Grant said. “We are thrilled to present him with this honor.”
Geiger, the son of a Legionnaire and a native of Minden, Iowa, served in the U.S. Army from 1943-1946, enlisting at age 17. He served with the 47th Tank Battalion in the 11th Armored Division in Europe during World War II. He was wounded during the “Battle of the Bulge” and was awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal and the American Theater Service Medal, among other honors.
Following military service, Geiger graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in architectural engineering and worked for an architecture firm in Chicago. He became involved with the American Legion while still on active duty and held a variety of leadership positions throughout the organization, including post commander for the Hiran Slifer Post 135 in Chicago and Illinois Department Commander.
Geiger was elected National Commander of the American Legion, the organization’s highest office, in 1971. In his role as national commander, he testified before Congress on the American Legion’s position on Veterans Affairs, and also introduced President Richard M. Nixon at an American Legion convention.
"John H. Geiger is not just one of 102 who have been elected to, or earned the title of national commander," said current American Legion National Commander Clarence Hill. "He is one in a million. Simply put, John H. Geiger is a giant in the history of The American Legion.”
Geiger also served as a member of the board of directors of Illinois Boys State for 25 years, and served as its executive officer for eight years. Additionally, Geiger is a former chairman of the Des Plaines Planning Committee.
Geiger and his wife live in Des Plaines. He is the father of six children, grandfather of 10, and great-grandfather of 2.
In accepting the award and reflecting on his service, Geiger gave the credit for his work in the American Legion to others.
The victories all go back to the people you have around you,” Geiger said. “It's working together for a common goal and recognizing that you can't do it alone. And we in The American Legion are good at working together to make good things, important things, happen."
The “Veteran of the Month” award highlights the work of community activists who are also military Veterans. Each month 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 to obtain a list of guidelines and a nomination form.