GENEVA – U.S. Army veteran John Carr didn’t know what direction his life would take when he left the service.
Carr – who entered the Army in 1969 and retired in 1972 – said he was trying to reorient himself. Then one day he spotted an ad seeking a disabled veteran – he had been wounded in an attack – to transport veterans to the hospital, he said.
Because he wasn’t doing anything else at the moment, he said, he went for the job, thus beginning a decadeslong career of helping veterans. In a ceremony Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs recognized Carr’s contributions by naming him the Illinois Veteran of the Month for January.
The honor is presented to veterans who continue to serve their communities after leaving the military and make a difference in the lives of others.
“I am humbled, and I thank you,” Carr said to the crowd of veterans, elected officials and community members gathered at the Kane County Government Center.
The 64-year-old Batavia resident has received such military awards as the Bronze Star medal, the Purple Heart medal, the Air Medal, the Army Commendation medal, the Vietnam Service medal and, among others, the Combat Infantryman Badge.
He joined Kane County’s Veterans Assistance Commission as a hospital caseworker in 1974 and was elected superintendent in 1977.
He retired in February 2013.
Working one-on-one with veterans, Carr helped them secure benefits they were entitled to, he said, noting one case lasted 10 years. He stressed he didn’t work alone.
“This is not just an award for me,” Carr said. “It’s an award for my staff as well.”
A lifetime member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Carr also served as president of the Illinois Association of County Veterans Assistance Commissions from 1990 to 1993 and was instrumental in the building of the Kane County Veteran Memorial, which was dedicated in 2005.
“I’m very proud of him,” said Judy Carr, his wife of 37 years. “I’ve always known he’s done an excellent job. It’s nice to know other people think so, too.”
Their daughter, Tegan, said her father would involve her and her brother in different projects and would talk to her classes.
“I know that I’ve definitely learned a lot about the veterans and all that from my dad than I did from school,” she said.
On behalf of Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Assistant Director Rodrigo Garcia presented Carr with a framed proclamation and a state flag.
Garcia said his department receives many applications for the Veteran of the Month award. Because there are about 800,000 to 1 million veterans in the state, he said, it can be said Carr is 1 in a million.
“Mr. John Carr,” Garcia said, “we are in your debt.”