UNSUNG HERO: Benton veteran honored for years of service - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

UNSUNG HERO: Benton veteran honored for years of service

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BENTON (WSIL) -- A veteran in Franklin County is being honored by the Benton VFW and American Legion.

Dr. John Metzger, Ph.D. retired from his position as Commander in the Benton American Legion t# 280 this week after two years in the position. Besides his military service, he also dedicated 34 years to children's education.

Looking at old Polaroids, John went through a box filled with fond memories of a life dedicated to serving others.

Monday, the Army vet added a few more pictures as keepsakes. After two years as Post Commander of the Benton American Legion #280, John passed the torch to someone new during an installation ceremony.

"We've been working for a smooth transition," said John.

John joined the United States Army in 1968, right before he was about to be drafted. He served in Vietnam as a Chaplain's assistant.

"Either on a helicopter or in a jeep, we would fly up to the bases around us and have services for the people, for the soldiers." 

When he came back, he earned his Ph.D. in Education Leadership. After teaching, he became a school principal, eventually retiring from the Johnston City school system as superintendent. But his devotion to education is only matched by his dedication to serving veterans.

"The VFW I came into as I got to know my father-in-law," explained John. 

He served and was elected as the VFW Commander for more than two decades. Some friends say that is a national record.

"A lot of service, but it's what I wanted to do, and stepping back from that is a process," said John.   

Part of his duties include attending veteran funeral services.

"A lot of them that served, did a lot more than I did, dangerously," added John as he held back tears. 

While his thoughts of war bring up a lot of emotion, he said he'll continue to serve his comrades.

"I don't do this for myself or for honor. I just do it because I enjoy working for veterans and their families." 

Now, he hopes more veterans will join the organizations that are out there.

"I'd like to leave this place better than I found it."  

In his 20th year, John continues to serve on the Benton School Board. He said he'll still be active with the American Legion and VFW, he'll just have fewer duties.

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