SPRINGFIELD– Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today named lifelong Springfield resident Michael E. Walton as the State of Illinois’ January “Veteran of the Month” for his unwavering commitment to the Veterans of Sangamon County and the City of Springfield’s safety.
“Not only do Veterans bravely serve our country in defense of our freedom, but many of them continue to work on behalf of others. One of these extraordinary Veterans is Michael Walton. He has been a loyal advocate and friend to Veterans through his longtime service with the American Legion, and has spent years protecting the citizens of Springfield as a police officer,” said Gov. 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 and Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) Director Tammy Duckworth, IDVA Assistant Director and Retired Master Sergeant Sergio Estrada presented Walton with the award during a special ceremony today at the American Legion Post 32 in Springfield.
“The ‘Veteran of the Month’ award is a way for us to say thank you to some of the brave men and women who have served in the military and then continue to serve their community. Michael Walton is a perfect example of what the ‘Veteran of the Month’ award embodies. He not only served this country in uniform as a Veteran, but also as a police officer. He has dedicated his life to protecting our country and the people of Sangamon County. Today, we rightfully honor Mr. Walton with this award,” IDVA Director L. Tammy Duckworth said.
From 1967-1971, Walton was a proud member of the United States Air Force serving overseas during the Vietnam War. He was honorably discharged from the Air Force and received the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with one Bronze Service Star, and the Air Force Good Conduct Medal.
After returning home from military service, Walton continued to serve his country in a different uniform. For more than 26 years, Walton served as a Springfield police officer, holding all civil service ranks within the department, including chief of police for three years. He is currently the Director of Support Services at the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office in Springfield.
Walton is a true advocate and leader for the Veteran community. He is a lifetime member of the American Legion, where he has served in all post offices including post commander and is presently the Post Judge Advocate and President of the American Legion Memorial Home Corporation of Springfield. For 11 years, he served as convention director for the American Legion Illinois Department of Conventions when they were held in Springfield and will once again serve in this capacity in 2008. He also has held the position of vice chairman of the American Legion National Convention Commission for nearly 10 years. Since 1979, Walton has served as the general chairman and coordinator of the Annual National American Legion Pilgrimage to the Tomb of Abraham Lincoln.
In addition to the American Legion, Walton is also a member of the Sons of the American Legion, Army, Navy, and Air Force Veterans in Canada and the United States (ANAVICUS); Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW); American Veterans (AMVETS); Disabled American Veterans (DAV); Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA); 40 & 8; Italian American War Veterans; University of Louisville Southern Police Institute Alumni Association; International Police Association; Illinois Police Association; Fraternal Order of Police; the Springfield Police Benevolent and Protective Association Unit #5; and a past board member of Sangamon County Crime Stoppers.
Walton also has served on the Illinois Secretary of State’s and the Illinois Governor’s Veterans Advisory panels, the Springfield Vets Center Advisory Committee, was former co-chairman of the Illinois Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Dedication Committee, and presently serves on the City of Springfield Mayor’s Veterans Advisory Commission.
Walton is well-known in the community and has been recognized for his tremendous efforts in the past. In 1988, he received the Sons of American Revolution Law Enforcement commendation award. He was named “Law Enforcement Officer of the Year” by the Sons of the American Revolution in 1999, the “Best City Cop” in August of 1979 by the State Journal Register, and “Legionnaire of the Year” in 1992 by the American Legion Post 32.
In addition to his commitment to Veterans, Walton has also volunteered countless hours of his time to enhance the lives of sick children, the state’s homeless and the needy. Walton is a past organizer and former vice president of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central Illinois, a past board member of the Springfield Salvation Army Committee, and a past board member for the Contact Ministries Board of Directors.
Born on December 16, 1948, Walton has lived in Springfield all his life. He has been married to his wife Christina for 35 years, has two children and one grandchild.
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 Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs 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 www.state.il.us/agency/dva or call IDVA at (217) 785-4114 to obtain a list of guidelines and a nomination form.