For Rantoul Press

On May 30th, 2005, former Mayor Neal Williams issued the following proclamation:

To aall to whom these presents shall come:

Whereas, the United States was founded on the rights of freedom for individuals, and this right has been defended by our armed services in many world conflicts throughout the history of the Country and

Whereas, Rantoul has a long history of supporting the Armed Forces, and was the home of Chanute Air Force Base for over 75 years and

Whereas, many of our local citizens have served in many conflicts including World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm and, many are currently serving in Iraq, and

Whereas, our members of the military and their families, both active and reserve, are in need of our support at all times and especially during conflict.

Now therefore, I, Neal Williams, Mayor of Rantoul, do hereby proclaim May 30, 2005, as Support the Troops Day in Rantoul and encourage its citizens to take part in this celebration and to fly their U.S. Flags in support of those who serve this country.

As Memorial Day approaches, this article serves as a reminder to celebrate those who serve and have served our great nation.

The Rantoul Area Chamber of Commerce office made an attempt to reach out to local entities and churches to compile an accurate list of those currently serving.

Although there most certainly are more within the Rantoul area, we feel that the individuals submitted for the purposes of this piece should be recognized.

We encourage the community to respond for those we have missed or may not have up-to-date information on.

Thank you to the following service men and women for representing your families, community and our freedoms: Col. Mark Jackson, Maj. Scott Medlin, 2nd Lt. Josh Wicker, Mikayla Medlen, Madison Medlen, Robert Ray, Seylon Wilson, Justin Lighthill, Adam Deremiah, Erik Koziczkowski and Diandra Goodlow.

In March of 2016, many local veterans were recognized at the annual USO dance sponsored by the Rantoul Rotary Club, Rantoul Exchange Club and RACC. The following individuals are members of the Rantoul area community. The brief summaries included are evidence of their accomplishments. All are deserving of recognition for their actions and continued service that goes above and beyond the call of duty:

Richard Franzen

Franzen was born in Urbana in 1948. He and Sandy were married in 1971. They have four children and eight grandchildren with one more on the way at any moment. He has been a beacon for community support since his graduation from RTHS in 1966.

After three years of active service in the Marine Corps and serving one year in Vietnam, he returned to Rantoul to serve the community.

He served on the RTHS school board for eight years. Franzen spent 10 years coaching Recreation Little League, two years with high school baseball and was involved with EI baseball for eight years. He is a sponsor of Luther League and teaches Sunday school. He joined the VFW and served as commander for five years. He volunteers frequently for special duties at VFW dinners and advents.

Franzen received this nomination for going above and beyond the call of duty and standing committed to the community he serves.

Allen Higgins

Higgins was born in Thawville in 1934. He and Joyce were married in 1955. That same year, Higgins was drafted into the U.S. Army before being sent to join the 761st Field Artillery Battalion. He served as a crane operator trained in Operation Sage Brush in Louisiana. His service to our community continues well beyond his years in active duty.

Higgins remains active as a charter member of the Exchange Club for 42 years, a 30-year member of the RACC in addition to serving on the board of directors. He was recognized as Citizen of the Year in 1984 and since then he has continued to support his fellow citizens in Rantoul by delivering Meals on Wheels and visiting those in assisted or supportive living facilities.

He has shaped young minds as a Boy Scout leader and Wieblo leader. He has served as a deacon, trustee and elder for American Lutheran Church.

Higgins received the nomination for his continued work and dedication to the community he serves.

James Ellis

Ellis is an RTHS graduate who served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. He served as a medic and was the recipient of a Purple Heart. He has dedicated his time to the service of veterans locally as well as overseas.

He has been a service officer and past commander of VFW Post No. 6750. He currently serves as the District 7 commander. There’s no better resource for knowledge of VA rules than Ellis. He knows how to get things done.

In addition to his volunteerism for the club, he drives those in need to their medical appointments. He is always willing to lend a hand wherever it is needed.

Ellis received this nomination for his commitment to service of Veterans as well as to our community.

Thomas Johnson

Thomas "Johnny" Johnson was born in College Grove, Tenn. in 1944. He and his wife, Jackie, were married in 1982. They have one daughter and one grandchild.

Johnson has been described as a "Great American, family man and countryman that is always willing to go out of his way to help someone in need."

He served the U.S. Air Force for 20 years working on missiles and as an instructor before retiring from Resources at Chanute Air Force Base. He served an additional 20 years in civil service. He currently serves his local post as a regular bartender and provides an ear for his fellow members to confide in. Trustworthy, smart and with a great sense of humor, Johnson brings positivity to any environment.

Johnson received this nomination for going above and beyond the call of duty and standing committed to the community he serves.

Doug Rokke

Since 1967, Rokke served in the U.S. Air Force, the Illinois Army National Guard and the Army Reserve until his retirement in 2009. Throughout his service, he and his wife, Carol, have remained active in the community.

Rokke is a supporter of the Danville VA, Regional Veterans Memorial and serves as a lector at St. Elizabeth’s Church. He sits on the Chanute Restoration Advisory Board, assists with programs at Rantoul Public Library and advises several entities about the health and environmental effects of war. He is also a community theater actor and part of the technical crew with the Rantoul Theatre Group.

Rokke received the nomination for standing committed to the community he serves.

Ronald Minch

Minch is a retired master sergeant (e-7) and has offered more than 20 years of military service in the U.S. Air Force.

Upon his retirement, Minch and his wife, Linda, established the Auditory Care Center in 1999 in the former 1st National Bank building. He has worked to develop a network of business associates and acts as a liaison between the owners and tenants in Rural King Plaza.

Minch is a member of the Exchange Club, actively recruiting new members and serving as program chairman. He assists prospective business owners in finding locations and coordinates with the village inspection office to lay the ground work to drive business into our community.

Minch received this nomination because he is an asset to our community and is dedicated to serving Rantoul and the RACC.  

Walter Weathersby

Walter "Chief" Weathersby was born in Mississippi in 1932 and began his career in 1954 as a technical supply inventory manager specialist with the 1975th Air & Airways Communications Squadron. He married Ruby in 1956. In his 31 years of service, his assignments led him all over the world


From 1966-1968, he was the first African American noncommissioned officer in charge at Lockbourne AFB in Columbus, Ohio, and in 1979, he became the first African American Mississippi native nominated to the position of chief master sergeant of the U.S. Air Force.

His mantra and challenge to all is to be the best. He has received the Strategic Air Command Airman Achievement Award, the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with One Oak Leaf Cluster, Humanitarian Service Ribbon, Republic of Vietnam Service Medal, and Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm in addition to several other awards – too many to list them all in one sitting. He has been employed at Lincoln’s Challenge Academy since 1993.

Weathersby received this nomination because "thank you" is never enough for a Veteran. This recognition is a small appreciation for his continued service but a sincere one.

If you know or see any of the individuals included in this article out and about, make sure to shake their hand and thank them for all they are doing or have done.

Memorial Day weekend is a time of remembrance and reflection. Many fought and died for our rights and freedoms. Have a safe and happy holiday and don’t forget to fly your flag proudly on May 30th.