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Star-Spangled Dinner 2017

On November 17, 2017, HONVEE honored 5 veterans at the HONVEE Star-Spangled Dinner. Vincent Speranza was our key-note speaker; he regaled us with tales of his experiences in WW2 Belgium. Both entertaining and touching, it was a wonderful moment to thank our veterans for their service. Our honorees are profiled below. We thank them again for their selfless service to our country!

Keynote Speaker and WWII Honoree Mr. Vincent J Speranza

 Mr. Speranza grew up on Staten Island, part of a large and colorful Italian family. He joined the Army in 1943 right after graduating from high school. Following Basic Training in Ft Benning Georgia, he became a paratrooper and joined the 101st Airborne Division, H Company 501st PIR, just prior to the Battle of the Bulge, where the unit became famous for its defense of Bastogne. After earning the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Knight of the French Legion of Honor, Mr. Speranza returned home to become a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Great Grandfather, Schoolteacher, Organizer and Community Volunteer. He is a proud member and past Commander of the VFW Post 8157, as well as a member and past Senior Vice-Commander of American Legion Post 277.

Korean War Honoree Mr. Sam Mantalbano

Born and raised in Springfield Illinois, Mr. Mantalbano joined the United States Army in 1951. He served in Korea with the 13th Combat Engineer Battalion. During his time in Korea he was a “demo man” and helped clear minefields and build new roads. After Korea Mr. Mantablano returned to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. After receiving an honorable discharge he returned to Springfield. Mr. Mantalbano is currently a member of Italian American War Veterans, American Legion Post 32, Korean War Veterans, VFW Post 755, Inter Veterans Burial Detail, Inter Veterans Council, and the coordinator of the Veterans Day Parade in Springfield.

Vietnam War Honoree Ms. Joan Garvert

A native of Springfield, Illinois Ms. Garvert attended Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville for both her bachelor’s degree in nursing and later for her masters. In her senior year of college she joined an Army program that paid for her schooling in return for a two-year commitment as an active duty nurse. In June of 1969 she received basic training at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas and was assigned to Ft. Lee, Virginia. Just a short three months later she was ordered to Vietnam. Arrival at the 85th Evac Hospital in Phu Bai, Viet Nam was a bit traumatic as the helicopter crash landed and Joan received minor injuries. Upon completion of her one-year tour of duty in Vietnam, Ms. Garvert served at Ft. Carson, Colorado until her discharge from the service. With compassion and respect for soldiers and veterans, her next 30 years of nursing were with the Department of Veterans Affairs, retiring in 2003. She is an active member of the Catholic War Veterans, and the Women’s Overseas Service League. Ms. Garvert is also Adjutant for the Inter Veteran’s Council and a delegate for the Veterans Assistant Commission. She is a Life member of the VFW, and the VVA, in addition to belonging to the American Legion and VietNow.

Gulf War Honoree Mr. David Lewis

Upon graduating high school in Chicago Illinois in 1989, Mr. Lewis enlisted into the U.S. Army. He completed basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Jackson S.C.. and was stationed at Fort Lewis, WA. He then was deployed to the Persian Gulf during Desert Shield and Desert storm where he had earned two Army Accommodation medals, National defense medal, Southwest Asia service medal, and liberation of Kuwait medal. Upon returning home Mr. Lewis was Honorably discharged from the service. A short time later he began a career with the Illinois Department of Corrections in which he left in 2010. Mr. Lewis has since joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars and is currently his posts Jr. Vice commander and the Chairman for the homeless and unmet needs programs. He also sits on a veteran’s advisory council for the 99th district. Mr. Lewis is passionate about these programs and is working to help end veteran homelessness.

Iraq War Honoree Mr. John Banister

Mr. Banister is a 2000 graduate of Williamsville High School. He joined the Illinois Army National Guard in September 1999 and is currently still serving. He deployed with 1644th Transportation Company from October 2004 – October 2005. During his deployment he was acting assistant convoy commander, truck commander, and gun truck commander. He accumulated thousands of miles on the roads of Kuwait and Iraq. He received an Army Commendation Medal for distinguished service, Combat Action Badge for taking indirect fire along with indirect mortar fire. Mr. Banister is a lifetime member of VFW Post 4763. He is currently employed with the State of Illinois and resides in Pawnee, IL.