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Naperville American Legion Post 43 began naming a Citizen of the Year in 1986.  We ask for community assistance to identify deserving candidates, and we especially like input from our own American Legion and VFW members.

 

Nominee’s service must be in support of the Naperville area or its bordering communities.  Members of the American Legion, Sons of the Legion, VFW, and Auxiliary are eligible, but it is not limited to.  The service must have been performed in a volunteer capacity, rather than as part of compensated employment.

 

Anyone may nominate a candidate by sending a letter or email that includes a comprehensive description of the services the nominee performed, the time frame, duration, and significance of the service to others, and the category they are being nominated for, along with the name and contact information for the nominee and the person offering the nomination.   Letters from others endorsing the nominee are encouraged.

 

Naperville is blessed with people who serve their fellow citizens.  Typically, the judges have a very difficult task.  Comprehensive information, attachments, and endorsements may be included, and are of great help to the committee in selecting the winner.  Nomination may be mailed to:
 

American Legion Post 43

Citizen of the Year

Post Office Box 4

Naperville, 60566

 

or emailed to:   r.yndestad@yahoo.com 

Nominations are to arrive no later than March 31,2024.

 

This year's 2024 winner will be announced in the local media and honored at The American Legion’s Awards and Recognition Banquet on April 20, 2024. 

 

Naperville

Citizen of the Year

Since 1986, Naperville American Legion Post 43 has annually
recognized a Naperville citizen for extraordinary service.

See a list of past
Citizens of the Year

Blue Smoke

2023
Citizen of the Year

James Hoch

It is my privilege to introduce this year’s Citizen of the Year Jim Hoch.

 

Jim has been our unofficial photographer for as long as I can remember and he freely volunteers his time and talent in this area.  No one asked him to do what he started so many years ago. He just saw a need and jumped in with both feet. He could easily make money for what he does for The American Legion and the VFW Posts, but he refuses to take a cent. Jim is the de facto photographer for many of the City of Naperville events, as well as all of the Veteran events including Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day.  Jim has been a constant in providing photographic archives of the events; including all of the dinners, parades, and even the Annual Judd-A-Thon races. He volunteers his time and talent, and never complains or takes credit. He helps out wherever and whenever volunteers are needed, and not just with his camera.

 

It is conservatively estimated that since 2009 Jim has documented over 250 dinner socials, 45 parades and 140 special events and fundraisers, taking over 10,000 photos. These photos are an important contribution, for the good of the Posts, and also for the enjoyment of his subjects. He graciously provides these photos for download, free of any charges or expectation of reimbursement.

 

I would also like to mention that Jim was the catalyst in initiating the “Remember Everyone Deployed” shirt sales with the Legion Riders, which has raised approximately $15,000 for the Gold Star Family Memorial in Veterans Park (which will be dedicated on Saturday May 27th.)  Jim assisted the Legion Riders in selling the shirts when he was available, whenever he wasn't photographing another event.

 

Jim has researched, cataloged and led the installation of American Flags at the gravesites of hundreds of Veterans during the week prior to Memorial Day each year.  Additionally, he has recorded interviews of several of our older Veteran members which provided their families with an invaluable record of their personal military history. 

 

Jim travels to the Southwest every year and volunteers, along with his church, to work on housing rehab on the Navajo Reservation. The Navajo Mission is sponsored by the Diocese of Joliet, and it's like a "Habitat for Humanity, where we build, rehab, refurbish many projects during the 2 weeks the team is there” says Jim.

 

Jim is a true patriot. He has never served in uniform; but exhibits all the qualities of a man who loves his country and the people with whom he comes in contact. Jim Hoch is our 2023 Citizen of the Year

Blue Smoke

2024
Citizen of the Year

Jennifer Slown

The American Legion Post 43 Citizen of the Year for 2024 is Jennifer Slown. 

Jennifer and her husband Scott and three children (Riley, Madison, & Luke) live in Naperville, IL.  Jennifer joined the Marine Corps in 2009.  She later attended Officers Candidate School and was commissioned in 2016.  Jennifer is currently a Captain in the Marine Corps reserves.

Jennifer was co-chairman of the Woody Williams Medal of Honor foundation’s Gold Star Family Memorial initiative in Naperville, from March 2020 through May 2023.  During this period of time, this committee faced immense world supply chain challenges due to the Pandemic. Her leadership and expertise in helping to coordinate the off-shore vendors, shipping companies, domestic Port Authorities, and transportation carriers, contributed to the success of this project.  Jennifer’s dedication and determination to America’s fallen, the unintentional victims of war, and their families was unwavering.  The six-foot-tall granite monument was installed in Naperville’s Veterans Park, and dedicated on Memorial Day weekend in 2023.

In addition to raising three children and working with her husband in real estate, Jennifer organizes the Disney Karaoke Fundraiser at the VFW Post each year.  This event has raised money for the VFW National Childrens Home in Eaton Rapids, MI.  She  also volunteers her time and serves as Sr. Vice Commander for The American Legion Post 43 and is an active member also in VFW Post 3873.  Jennifer started the Veteran Business Connection, which helps promote Veteran owned businesses. She is a Marine for Life and helps coordinate Marines with the transition from active duty to civilian life. Jennifer also is a member of the Women Marines Association and Toys for Tots organizations. 

Congratulations!

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Blue Smoke

2022
Citizen of the Year

STEVE STRICKLAND

Steve spends majority of his time helping others. Steve is a member of The American Legion Post 43 and has been The American Legion Riders Chapter 43 Director for the past several years. He has been instrumental in raising money to support Gold Star Families by selling R.E.D. T-shirts at various events, and taking the time to attend whatever venue will help support this cause. To date, The American Legion Riders have raised donations of over $12,000.00 to support the Gold Star Families foundation. Steve also supports, along with the Legion Riders, the Honor Flight Chicago programs; which help support sponsoring flights to Washington DC for Veterans who served from World War II up to Vietnam at this time. The Riders also greet the Veterans, when they return, at the airport with several other Legion members to let them know how much their service is appreciated. In addition to his work with The American Legion, Steve currently drives a bus with the Sunrise Transportation service; where he picks up students with special needs and brings them to school. Steve has a special personality, patience and commitment to helping anyone in need. Anyone who works in this environment would understand that it takes a special person to fulfill this position. Steve is that person. Steve is also a member of the PAWSitive Therapy Troupe, which is an all[1]volunteer, public charity, dedicated to sharing registered therapy dogs with individuals in a wide variety of health care and educational settings - bringing comfort, support and encouragement through the unique healing power of human-animal bonding. Spend some time with Steve and you will find out that he is a person that freely gives of his time to help others. The American Legion Post 43, as well as the American Legion Riders Chapter, are grateful for all he does and enjoy his comradery and dedication, whatever the cause might be. Steve is dedicated to helping others in so many ways, which is why he has been selected as the 2022 Citizen of the Year.

 

Rich Yndestad Committee Chairman

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