News from President Toni Preckwinkle

A Look at Cook County’s Silver Star Service Banner Recipients

On Tuesday, May 1st, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle praised 27 Cook County veterans who were wounded in combat; who are this year’s recipients of the Silver Star Banner.  “We are remembering and honoring the sacrifices made by our wounded warriors, and the suffering many of them continue to endure as a result of their bravery,” President Preckwinkle said. “This ceremony is also a reminder that we must offer unwavering encouragement and support to the thousands of wounded servicemen and women who are coming home from Afghanistan and who served so nobly in Iraq.” said President Preckwinkle.

We’ll look at the recipients, more on the Silver Star Service Banner Award, and finally the Veteran’s Assistance Commission of Cook County.

About the Recipients:

1. US Army WWII SGT  Sgt. Joe Fleck, wounded in 1945 by an 81 MM mortar shrapnel.  He was 21 at the time.

2. US Army WW II PFC, Richard H. McGathey Infantry-rifleman. Wounded in Caumont, France-Normandy by German tank fire.  He suffered a broken arm, leg and injures from shrapnel.

3. US Army Korea PFC Pedro Marquez. Wounded at the Nontong River in Korea, and suffered from Head, eye, and ear injuries.

4. US Army Korea PFC Jose L. Martinez. Wounded in Youngchon, Korea wounded by 81 MM Motar fire, first casualty list from Illinois.

5. US Army Korea PFC Mitchell E. Wierzgac.  Wounded in the foot in Korea  in1953 by enemy fire in foot.

6. US Army Vietnam SP4 Manuel De La Cruz.  Wounded during an ambush by a pungi stick to the left lung in South Vietnam Sep 1969.

7. USMC Vietnam CPL Espiridion Araujo.  Wounded in Vietnam 1968 while walking point fire fight.  His finger was shot off.  He earned a Silver Star , the Navy Achievement with V Device, Purple Heart with with a Gold Star, and Vietnam Cross of Gallantry for eliminating 138 enemy and capturing 33 weapons.

8. US Army Vietnam SP4 Benito Garcia, who served 3 tours in Vietnam.  He was severely wounded, taking bullet shrapnel to head and knee.  Garcia served with all 3 Airborne Units-82nd, 101st, and the 173rd Combat Infantry Battalion.  He earned  4 Purple Heart medals, with a 5th currently pending.

9. US Coast Guard Vietnam E-4 Robert McKay.  Wounded in 1970 at Song Ong-Vietnam.  He currently suffers from PTSD.

10. US Army Vietnam SP4 Victor Franco.  Wounded at Nha Trang Vietnam, during his 2nd tour.  He received mortar shrapnel to head and face.   His father Victor Sr. was serving with 5th Special Forces at same time as his son in Vietnam .  The Father was a purple heart recipient in Korean War.

11. US Army Vietnam Sgt Ronald Baltierra.  Wounded in 1969, during the Vietnam War.  A landmine injured his knees, rib cage and back. Baltierra served as Pointman, 50 gunner, and Battalion RTO.  He graduated from 9th Infantry 2nd Sniper School in Vietnam.  He received 2 Bronze Stars, 1 with a “V” for Valor.  Baltierra also received 3 Commendation Medals, 1 ot these with a “V” for Valor.

12. USMC Vietnam PFC Henry Gonzales.  Wounded in Vietnam, August 1969 during  firefight.  He took mortar shrapnel to the leg.

13. US Army Vietnam Sgt Carlos Brown.  Wounded in Vietnam in 1969 while serving with the 1st Infantry.  He took shrapnel to the left side of his body during a firefight.

14. US Army Vietnam Sargent Major Levester Spearman.  Wounded in the temple and head by a rocket-propelled grenade during the Vietnam War.  wounded by rocket Spearman served 2 tours in Vietnam, and received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and a Purple Heart.

15. US Army Vietnam SP4 John Domina.  Wounded in 1970 during the Vietnam War.  He came under attack by 370 NVA, and made a gun out of parts to hold off the enemy.  Domina was struck in the head and body by a rocket-propelled grenade. He received a Commendation Medal with a “V” for Valor.

16. USMC Vietnam LCPL James Balcer.  Wounded in Vietnam, 1968. Balcer was  wounded by shrapnel to legs, and back.  He received 3 Purple Hearts.

17. US Army Vietnam PFC SP4 Frank Rolla.  Rolla was wounded during a firefight in Vietnam, 1969.  He received shrapnel and currently suffers from PTSD.

18. US Army Vietnam PFC Manuel Esparza.  Esparza was wounded in the leg and face by an enemy grenade in 1969.

19. USMC Vietnam CPL Enrique Araujo was injured in Vietnam.  He saw action there in 1967-68.  Araujo currently suffers from PTSD.

20. US Army Vietnam PFC John Garcia.  Garcia served in 1966-67 with the 173rd Airborne as a Combat Medic.  He is the only Medic to have made a Combat parachute jump during the Vietnam War.

21. US Army Iraq LTC Lavell Johnson, served in the Iraq War and was wounded when his vehicle hit an IED in 2006.  Johnson received his purple heart at a Chicago Bears game Oct. 28, 2007.  He is enrolled in the Chicago Police Department Academy.

22. US Army Afghan Derrick Dawayne Ross was wounded during the Afghan War in 2011.  He suffered broken boned in both legs, his back, as well as a shattered foot.

23. USMC Afghan Michael Horbaczewski, was wounded during the Afghan Ward in Aug. 2010.  An IED Blast and shrapnel, broke his ribs, legs and tibia. Horbaczewski is till on Active Duty in California.

24. US Navy Afghan Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Robert Spejcher, was wounded during the Afghan War.  In May 2004, while on patrol with the First of the Sixth of the 22nd Marines, Spejcher came under extreme enemy fire and received multiple shrapnel wounds to the front of his body.  He also suffered a ruptured ear drum from an rocket-propelled grenade.  Spejcher was awarded a  Bronze Star with a “V” for Valor.

25. USMC Afghan CPL Joshua Misiewicz, was wounded during the Afghan War.  While on patrol, he stepped on land mine , losing both legs. He was awarded a Purple Heart.

26. US Army Vietnam SP4 Bruce B. Borowicz.  Borowicz served during the Vietnam War in 1966-67.  He served with 25th Infantry, and during his tour of duty he was exposed to chemicals used to clear the jungle.  Borowicz now suffers from side effects due to exposure to Agent Orange chemicals.

27. US Army Vietnam SP4 Dave Smith, 1965-66 Bien Hua, Vietnam.  During Smith’s tour of duty he was exposed to chemicals used to clear the jungle and now suffers with ongoing medical conditions due to exposure to Agent Orange chemicals.

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More on Silver Service Banner Day

The tradition of a service banner with a blue star covered with silver threads to represent wounded service personnel began in 1917 following the suggestion of the “Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defense”, but faded from use sometime between WW I and WW II. When the use of Blue and Gold Star Service Banners was formally adopted into the United States Code and made official, the tradition of the Silver Star Service Banner was overlooked.

The US Government has always honored the sacrifices made by the wounded warriors or those members of the armed forces fallen ill in combat, and noted that the sacrifices of the military service members and veterans of the Armed Forces on behalf of the United States should never be forgotten.

On April 21, 2010, the United States House of Representatives passed House Resolution 855 making May 1st Silver Star Service Banner Day, an Official Day to honor wounded, ill and injured veterans. On May 19, 2010 the United States Senate followed suit and approved Senate Resolution 534.

The Silver Star Service Banner has come to represent those members of the Armed Forces and veterans who were wounded or became ill in combat in wars fought by the United States.

Silver Star Families of America was formed to help the American people remember the sacrifices made by the wounded and ill members of the Armed Forces by designing and manufacturing Silver Star Banners and Silver Star Flags for that purpose.

The sole mission of the Silver Star Families of America is to evoke memories of the sacrifices of members and veterans of the Armed Forces on behalf of the United States through the presence of a Silver Star Service Banner in a window or flying a Silver Star Flag.

In designating May 1st as “Silver Star Service Banner Day”, the U.S. Government calls upon the people of the United States to observe the day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.


About the Veteran’s Commission of Cook County

The (VAC) Veterans Assistance Commission of Cook County was formed in 1909, celebrating 100 years of continuous service to veterans a couple years ago. The Veterans Commission is organized with a membership from 45 different Veteran Organizations from throughout Cook County. The executive board and members meet once a month on the last Tuesday of each month in the Jesse Brown Veterans Administration Medical Center auditorium.

The mission of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Cook County is to provide assistance to Honorably Discharged Veterans from Cook County. The VAC provides immediate assistance to eligible veterans in need of a helping hand and who qualify under low income guidelines.

• Veterans can receive travel car fare assistance for their VA Hospital clinical appointments, scheduled job interviews and approved educational training classes

• Rental and mortgage assistance

• Utilities payments

• Food assistance

• Clothing and Shoes for work

• Burial assistance, must have served during war time

Veterans may call for an appointment or visit our office on a walk in basis, Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Veterans Assistance Commission of Cook County

Located at the Juvenile Detention Center

1100 S. Hamilton, C 011 (Lower Level)

Chicago, Illinois 606112

(312) 433-6010







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