Edwin Eugene “Gene” Neeley makes sure that every veteran gets their moment of honor. At 94 years old, the World War II veteran is the secret weapon for the Greater Peoria Honor Flight, where he seeks out and encourages veterans to take a special flight to Washington, D.C., at no cost. In his volunteer role, Gene looks for veterans who have not yet participated in the honor flight, which brings veterans to the nation’s capital to visit the memorials, and helps them understand that their sacrifice is never forgotten. He has become the radiant face of the honor flight, and his love for the brave men and women who have served our country is contagious.
Military and Veterans
Having served as an Army Reservist for more than 20 years, Marisa Saucedo understands what many veterans need from their community when returning from service. When soldiers leave the military, they can face an intimidating road to reintegration and the transition back to civilian life is often more difficult than most people know. The key to making it to the end of this road, Marisa says, is having authentic community
When Kathy Hecht’s father unexpectedly became legally blind, she and her family began to brainstorm creative sources of joy to help him cope with having more empty hours in the day. Kathy, who had rescued and trained dogs with her father while growing up, found the answer quickly: a retired Australian shepherd show dog named Eddie, who was no ordinary companion. She believes that a connection with animals can be a powerful healing tool for anyone, and she has proved this through Salute of Service, a nonprofit that seeks to help veterans train their own service dogs at no charge.