St. Charles veterans honored by national VFW organization for their community work

St. Charles veterans Duane Buttell and Andrew Balafas continue to dedicate themselves to country and community through their work with the St. Charles Veterans Center.

That commitment has earned them recognition the national Veterans of Foreign Wars #StillServing campaign, which honors veterans who continue to provide service in their community following active duty. The St. Charles Veterans Center is home to four local veteran posts, including American Legion Post 342, VFW Post 5036, AMVETS Post 503 and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 693.

“We are doing what we can to help,” said the 80-year-old Buttell, who is a decorated retired U.S. Air Force colonel and is a member of all four organizations.

Balafas, 63, is a member of AMVETS Post 503, American Legion Post 342 and VFW Post 5036. Even though Buttell has been awarded several medals and ribbons, including the prestigious Silver Star Medal for valor in combat, he is not one to brag.

“We’re all just veterans, we all love each other and support each other,” he said. “We work really hard here to break all the barriers down, to make sure that everyone feels equal and feels the same. And that’s a part of the heart and soul of this organization.”

In addition to his work with the St. Charles Veterans Center, Balafas also leads the Veterans program for VITAS Healthcare in the greater Chicago area for three hospice programs. Both Buttell and Balafas are humbled to be honored by the national Veterans of Foreign Wars organization.

They have worked on a number of projects for the St. Charles Veterans Center, including launching a program last September to celebrate the U.S. Constitution. The inaugural Constitution Celebration, which was held at the Freedom Shrine next to the former St. Charles police station, featured a keynote address from Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Allen Lynch.

Those who attended the program received free American flags, pocket versions of the Constitution and souvenir Founding Documents cards.

“With the anti-Constitutional activities going on last year, we decided to take a stand,” Balafas said.

Buttell noted that members of the military “swear an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, against enemies foreign and domestic.”

“There’s no expiration date on that,” he said.

They also have been working on a project to turn a stretch of Route 31 into a Freedom Corridor that will honor veterans. Banners were installed last year on light poles along Route 31/Second Street between Main Street and the Pottawatomie Park pedestrian bridge. The St. Charles Veterans Center is located on Second Street.

Buttelll and other fellow Vietnam War veterans have also given St. Charles North High School students a glimpse of what fighting in a war was like through annual presentations to the students.

“We want to give these kids the chance to ask their real questions about Vietnam,” he said. “The kids love it and their counselors up there love it.”

More information about the St. Charles Veterans Center is available on its website at stcharlesveteranscenter.org.



Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf covers St. Charles and writes entertainment stories for the Kane County Chronicle.