MURPHYSBORO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today named lifelong Illinois resident David A. Lavender as the State of Illinois’ March “Veteran of the Month” for his outstanding commitment to the Veterans of Southern Illinois and their families.
“Our Veterans have honorably defended our country and our freedoms. They all deserve to be thanked, respected and recognized for their efforts. But we especially should recognize those courageous individuals who continue to serve their country after their military service is complete. One of these special Veterans is David Lavender, who has been a loyal friend to Veterans, their families and to his local community,” 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 Tammy Duckworth presented Lavender with the award during a special ceremony today at the American Legion Post 127 in Murphysboro.
“The ‘Veteran of the Month’ award is another 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. Today, we honor one of these deserving individuals – Mr. David Lavender – with the March ‘Veteran of the Month’ award,” IDVA Director L. Tammy Duckworth said.
From 1963-1965, Lavender proudly served in the United States Army 1st Cavalry Division (Airborne). On November 18, 1965, Lavender volunteered to go as part of the rescue team that headed into Ia Drang Valley, which was one of the first major battles during the Vietnam War. Lavender was honorably discharged from the Army and for his service received the Purple Heart, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
Lavender is a true advocate and leader for the Southern Illinois Veteran community. He unselfishly spends his time to help homeless Veterans find shelter and get the food and care they need. Each year, Lavender ensures there is a Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony by personally overseeing the parade and placing flags on each and every Veteran grave in the local area for Memorial Day. He also assists in ensuring that the graves of those killed in action are memorialized with special flags. A few years ago, Lavender worked to bring the Moving Vietnam Wall to Murphysboro for the entire community to view. He also was a committee member for the Illinois Vietnam Veteran Memorial in Springfield, assisting with initial fund-raising as well as coordinating programs and vigils each year for the anniversary.
Lavender currently serves as an Executive Board Member and the Veteran Service Officer with the American Legion Post in Murphysboro. He is also a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the 1st Cavalier Association & 5th Cavalier Association, and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) where he served as past commander.
In addition to his voluntary commitment to the area’s Veterans, Lavender has also been actively involved with the local youth community. Among many roles, Lavender was a girl’s softball coach for 11 years; a bus driver for the local cheerleaders; a booster organization officer and co-founder of the “meet the team night”; a Baptist Youth Fellowship Sponsor at First Baptist Church; and an upward football and basketball volunteer. Lavender has helped put on educational programs for a number of schools including Alton High School, Elverado High School, Murphysboro High School, COPE Alternative School, General John A Logan Attendance Center, Murphysboro Middle School, Lutheran School, Paris Middle School SIU ROTC program, and the DeKalb ROTC program. Lavender has accompanied a number of high school senior trips to our nation’s capitol, taking the students on tours of the Vietnam Wall and other historical sites and spreading patriotism.
Lavender has also been involved with helping the disabled and sick. He served as chairman of the Paul Michaels Medical Fundraiser and is a board member of Specialized Training for Adult Rehabilitation (S.T.A.R.T.). At S.T.A.R.T. Lavender helps to enhance the quality of life for persons with disabilities or other economic, social and vocational challenges.
Born on January 21, 1942, Lavender has lived in Southern Illinois all his life. He has been married to his wife Karen for over 42 years, has three daughters and four grandsons.
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.