At 77, Shorewood veteran still honoring others who served

Joe Olvera served in the Army National Guard from 1969 to 1973

Army veteran Joe Olvera poses for a photo on Sunday, Sept. 17, in Channahon.

A ceremony to pay tribute to veterans who lost their lives to suicide is held twice a year in Channahon.

When the most recent ceremony took place Sept. 17, Joe Olvera, 77, of Shorewood was there, too.

“It’s magnificent the way they got it set up,” Olvera said. “They asked me if I knew anyone who wanted to fold the flags, [and] I said, ‘Yes, we do that at the cemetery. We’ll go out there and do it.’ ”

Olvera is referring to the Abraham Lincoln Cemetery Memorial Squad, which he said he joined in 2009 to help give military honors to veterans during their burial.

He also volunteers in the We Honor Veterans program for Lightways Hospice and Serious Illness Care in Joliet, primarily at the pinning recognition ceremonies for veterans receiving care from Lightways.

I like what I’m doing. And someone has to do it.”

—  Joe Olvera, 77, of Shorewood, Vietnam veteran

After the pinning, Olvera listens to the stories that veterans want to share. Occasionally, he pins a veteran with whom he’s served, which he said is always emotional.

But Olvera said he does it anyway “because it’s needed.”

“They came home with nothing for them, no parade or anything,” Olvera said. “To me, it gives them the honor [and shows them] that they are appreciated for what they did.”

Olvera said he served in the Army National Guard from 1969 to 1971 because his brother was overseas.

He also still is active at the American Legion Post 1080 in Joliet, participating in school events and Memorial Day ceremonies “wherever we’re needed,” he said.

“I like what I’m doing,” Olvera said. “And someone has to do it.”

Olvera said all three organizations are looking for volunteers.

Thomas Horn, commander of the American Legion Post 1080 in Joliet, said last year that attracting a younger membership is challenging.

“I’m about the youngest one here on the board at 73,” Horn said. “We can’t get anybody to run, and very few young people come to the meetings.”

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