Du Quoin IL – In the mid-1960’s many were seeking to avoid military service, or to find non-combat roles for their time in uniform. For Michael L. Hoelscher, service was something he learned from his father, a WWII Marine. Shortly after graduating from Chester Community High School, Hoelscher started a career in uniform, with the first part as a Security Policeman in the U.S. Air Force, including a year-long tour on the ground in Vietnam. There he often found himself fighting as an infantryman with his fellow airmen in the defense of a key airbase.
It was the start of a lifetime of service, accomplishments, and making a difference in his community, culminating with his election as Sheriff of Randolph County in 2010, and as a D.A.R.E. officer with over 24 years dedicated to educating youth on the perils of illegal drug use.
“Sheriff Hoelscher contributions to his community, his fellow veterans and our country are clear,” said Rodrigo Garcia, Acting Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “His life-long service to others, volunteer spirit and focus on the community is also clear. As a young Airman First Class, his being selected to receive the Bronze Star Medal for valor was an early indicatory of his potential and grit, and once back home as a veteran, he was a leader, a volunteer, and a teacher, reaching thousands of school children with anti-drug training and education. He is a great example of how our veterans continue to serve and make a difference.”
“I am honored to accept this for the veterans of Illinois,” said Michael L. Hoelscher, to a crowd of several hundred at the event, “and thank you for presenting it to me, and for everyone involved.”
He was also honored by both U.S. Senator Richard Durbin and U.S. Congressman Bill Enyart (IL-12), with prepared statements and letters of congratulations presented by representatives.
Hoelscher enlisted in the United States Air Force, and volunteered to serve in Vietnam. In 1968 during the Tet Offensive, he and other Security Policemen repelled a significant attack by Viet Cong forces on the Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base, a key facility in South Vietnam. A second major attack on Tan Son Nhut on May 6 and 7, 1968 occurred, and he once again served with honor and distinction, earning the Bronze Star with V device for valor in battle. He served for almost 4 years in the Air Force, ending with a tour with the Strategic Air Command’s Elite Guard while stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, the SAC Headquarters. To join the Elite Guard, Hoelscher had to volunteer and then meet and maintain high physical, performance and moral standards during his duty guarding one of the national nuclear arsenal headquarters. He was honorably discharged in 1970, having risen quickly to the rank of Staff Sergeant.
After he left the Air Force, he returned to Randolph County and became a law enforcement officer, continuing to serve and protect. He served as a patrolman, Deputy Sheriff, and now as Sheriff for nearly thirty years. As a D.A.R.E. officer, he dedicated himself to educating and safeguarding Randolph County children from drug or alcohol abuse – and for his effort, he is widely known in the jurisdiction.
He is a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and was recently elected as the second Vice President of the Southwestern Illinois Law Enforcement Commission Executive Committee, which is responsible for Law Enforcement Training throughout the State of Illinois.
Debi, his wife, attended the ceremony in addition to friends, supporters and fellow veterans. He was nominated by Kathy Bower, IDVA Veteran Service Officer for Jackson County.
About Veterans Day at the Du Quoin State Fair
In cooperation with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Du Quoin State Fair, the IDVA invited veterans and their family members to enjoy a day at the State Fair on Sunday, Aug. 24. In addition to all the great activities, events, entertainment and food the Fair has to offer, the following veteran-oriented programs presented at the Second Heat/Senior Center Building on Hayes Avenue on the fairgrounds:
11:00 a.m. Helping Our Hometown Heroes Benefits Fair Opens
1:00 p.m. “Willing Partners” Canine & Disabled Veteran Education Program
2:00 p.m. Illinois Veteran of the Month Ceremony in honor of
Michael L. Hoelscher, Randolph County Sheriff
Presented by Rodrigo Garcia, Acting Director, IDVA
MC; Earl M. White, Southern Division Field Supervisor
3:30 p.m. “Willing Partners” Canine & Disabled Veteran Education Program
4:00 p.m. Helping Our Hometown Heroes Benefits Fair Closes
The Helping Our Hometown Heroes Benefits Fair included information, services and activities for veterans and family members administered by IDVA, state and federal agencies, veteran service organization and Illinois Joining Forces.
The “Willing Partners” Canine & Disabled Veteran Education program was offered by Willing Partners Canine Education, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to the training of Service Dogs for mentally and physically disabled veterans. For more information, visit www.yourwillingpartners.com.
About Veteran of the Month Program
The Illinois Veteran of the Month award highlights the work of great people who are also military veterans. Each month the Department recognizes a different person or group that contributes to communities across the state of Illinois. To nominate a veteran for consideration, please visit IDVA’s website at veterans.illinois.gov obtain guidelines and a nomination form.
Governor Quinn has long been a leader for supporting Illinois’ military families. He initiated the Illinois Veterans Grant and Illinois National Guard Grant, which cover tuition at all Illinois public universities and community colleges for eligible veterans and serving National Guard members. He also required colleges to post all benefits available to Illinois veterans and assign a staff member to serve as the point of contact for student veterans who need information and assistance. In 2012, Governor Quinn and the Departments of Veterans’ and Military Affairs spearheaded the statewide public-private partnership, Illinois Joining Forces, which has been a model for other states to follow.