JJ Kelley’s owner “out-paced the field” in supporting military and veterans
by Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (April 4, 2019) – The Lansing Veterans Memorial Ceremonial Honor Guard held their annual appreciation dinner March 30 at JJ Kelley’s in Lansing. Not only is the dinner a gathering to celebrate the group’s event participation throughout the past year, to honor the efforts of members and supporters, and to remember members that have been lost, but it also commemorates the creation of the LVMCHG, which was established March 29, 1992.
Special Guests and Special Honors
Special guests for the evening were introduced from Calumet City VFW Post 8141, the Southeast Side Vietnam Veterans, Lansing Boy Scouts, American Legion Post 697 Ladies Auxiliary, Abraham Lincoln Cemetery Memorial Honor Guard, and the Lansing Junior Woman’s Club. Other special guests included Lansing Mayor Patty Eidam and Claudia Paolone and Fran Mabry, wives of two late LVMCHG members.
Each year the group recognizes one of their own with an announcement and a humorous prize. The Soldier In the Barrel Award went to Pete Matrenec, who received a customized first aid kit.
Each year an appreciation award is given to a supporter of the LVMCHG. This year member Jeff Schoettle presented the award to JoEllyn Kelley, co-owner of JJ Kelley’s. “This year’s recipient has certainly out-paced the field when it comes to lending her support to our military and our nation’s veterans,” said Schoettle as Kelley was surprised with a plaque. “It’s hard to think of a military group or veteran’s organization that hasn’t been on the receiving end of her tremendous generosity, been made to feel welcome at any of the military and veterans events hosted here, and who among us hasn’t heard, firsthand from her lips, her heartfelt sincere gratitude for their service.”
Schoettle pointed out the American flag outside the building, a wall of heroes in the bar honoring local veterans, and a memorial to fallen Marine LCPL Philip Martini—just a few of the ways that Kelley expresses her appreciation for military veterans.
Honor Guard history
Intended to provide participants for military programs and ceremonies for the Lansing Veterans Memorial at the Lansing Municipal Airport, the group expanded to represent the memorial at parades and additional services within and outside the Lansing community.
The LVMCHG conducts services at the Lansing Veterans Memorial for military holidays—such as Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and other significant events—and was created at the request of Tom Luberda, President of the Lansing Veterans Memorial. Its members have served in the Armed Forces and volunteer their time in the honor guard.
Among the highlights of the group’s 27 years are participating in the South Side Irish Parade as lead color guard, receiving “WWII Commemorative Community” status from the U.S. government, participating in the M1-A1 tank memorial dedication and posting colors at Congressman Jerry Weller’s inauguration ceremony. They’ve won a number of awards, plaques and appreciation certificates from municipalities and other veteran groups for parade participation and flag presentations. They’ve also been present for the dedications of several area veteran memorials, including South Holland, Highland, and Merrillville.
Close-knit Group is “like family”
Claudia Paolone has been an honorary LVMCHG member since March 30, 1992, the day after the honor guard was established. Her husband, Ernie, died suddenly the day after becoming a member, and the first official function of the honor guard was Ernie’s funeral. Paolone expressed how much support the members provided to her and her family during that difficult time.
“They helped with the funeral and were there for me. They treated my kids like a father and made me feel so welcome. They were always there for me and my kids, like family, in honoring my husband, and I’ve stayed with the group,” she said.
Seeking New Members
With a limited number of honor guard members, the group still manages to represent the Lansing Veterans Memorial at numerous functions each year. The 14 members are planning to participate in more than a dozen events in 2019, which includes three Memorial Day services, a POW/MIA Day vigil at the memorial, leading parades, and posting colors at several local ceremonies.
As members age, there’s a need for new members. Veterans who are curious about membership are invited to call 708-862-7731 or visit the “Lansing Veterans Memorial Ceremonial Honor Guard” Facebook page.
“We’re thankful to all the supporters who attended our annual appreciation dinner in our 27th year as an honor guard, and we are hoping to keep the momentum going for years to come,” said LVMCHG member Rich Dominiak.