JOLIET – Easter Seals Joliet Region dedicated a veterans memorial on Thursday, drawing some attention to the services the agency offers to people who serve in the military.
The memorial is primarily a flagpole erected in front of the Easter Seals Regional Pediatric Center on Barney Drive. But Easter Seals hopes to surround the pole with with stones to be laid by donors commemorating veterans close to them.
“We try to think of special things to do to bring out the spirit that we all have and to use that spirit for the mission we have at Easter Seals,” Deb Condotti, chief executive officer of Easter Seals Joliet Region, told about 50 people gathered for the dedication ceremony. “We decided putting a flagpole in front of our center was a statement to everyone who comes up and down Barney Drive.”
In the audience were a few veterans associated with Easter Seals.
They included Tony Simone, a Joliet resident and Air Force veteran injured in Afghanistan in 2010 when the helicopter he piloted was shot down.
Simone comes to a weekly group meeting at Easter Seals for people with traumatic brain injuries.
“I find it very therapeutic to realize I’m not the only one. There are other people like me,” Simone said of the meetings. “Granted, they were not in the military, but that’s besides the point.”
Simone’s experience with Easter Seals is an example of how the agency’s services for people with disabilities can be extended to serve veterans and military families, Condotti said.
“Easter Seals nationally has served many veterans groups,” she said. “Here, locally, we provide caregivers’ support, and we work with military families on behalf of their children with disabilities.”
Condotti noted that military families sometimes have unique circumstances, including a parent deployed overseas or serving in the National Guard on weekends.
“We do understand the needs that military families have, especially if they have children with disabilities,” she said.
The event included recognition for Bob Duchene of Joliet, a longtime Easter Seals volunteer who served in the Army during the Korean War.
The United States flag was raised for the first time on the flagpole by an honor guard from Joliet Central High School that included Ashley York as the flag raiser and Brayan Galvan as the actioner. Others in the guard were Jesus Chavez, Jorge Arias and Jennifer Martinez.