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With only 71 living Medal of Honor recipients in the United States, it is not everyday one comes to town.
But on Saturday, April 27, Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Allen Lynch will be the keynote speaker at the fourth annual Veterans Information Saturday, hosted by local military group Veterans Voices at Faith United Methodist Church, 15101 S. 80th Ave. in Orland Park.
“It’s an honor to have [Allen] here; he’s a hero,” said Darryl Wertheim, of Veterans Voices. “He wears his Medal of Honor when he speaks ,and he speaks from the heart. We can relate to it. Not only are we veterans but we lived in the same era. … We’re really proud to have him here.”
Lynch is not only a distinguished veteran, but also author of his memoir, “Zero to Hero: From Bullied Kid to Warrior.” His book covers an array of topics, from bullying to dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. These topics, he said, are near and dear to his heart and relatable to both his generation and younger ones, too.
“[Veterans are] kind of a brotherhood, and I’ve spent the last several years talking to different veterans,” Lynch said. “It’s really nice to be able to reconnect with them. I think my book helps a little [for them]. In the book, I talk about how I was able to control my post-traumatic stress disorder, and that part is pretty important.”
The event, which is free and open to both veterans and their families, is expected to draw hundreds of people of all ages — including school-age children. Wertheim said Lynch’s talk in relation to bullying will be especially important for them.
“He is an unbelievable man,” Wertheim said. “He was bullied when he was a child, up until high school, had some personal problems with that and joined the service … and found himself there. He found that the structure of military life was good for him, and he prospered there.”
Lynch is slated to speak around 1:40 p.m. and will be preceded by a free lunch for 200 people, donated by City Barbeque, of Orland Park, as well as an opening ceremony with appearances by chaplain of Faith United Methodist Church Dale Carver, Mayor Keith Pekau and caregiver support coordinator Hines V.A. Jillian Inserra.
Orland Park is ninth on Lynch's 11-stop book tour. Lynch, an Illinois native, said touring his home state is always enjoyable, as he gets to see familiar faces.
“I’m getting to see some old friends and meet some new ones,” Lynch said. “I’ve been traveling Illinois for a long time. I know my way around pretty good. I was raised on the Souths Sde, went to high school at Thornridge in the early [1960s]. It’s almost like going home again.”
Faith United Methodist is the only church location on the tour and also the home of Veterans Voices, which meets there once a month. While many of the group’s members are also part of the Faith United congregation, Wertheim said its membership and services are open to any and all veterans, regardless of age, race or religion.
Veterans Voices is among one of 17 groups exhibiting services on Information Saturday and Wertheim encourages veterans and their families to explore them all.
“[Getting involved] really helps veterans,” he said. “If they have post-traumatic stress disorder or any of the other things that affect veterans, being involved in something helps.”
Information Saturday runs from 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and is free to all veterans and their families, with goodwill donations accepted. For more information, contact Wertheim at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (708) 781-9696.