Brig. Gen. James E. Bonner was the keynote speaker at Saturday’s ceremony. Bonner is an Anna native.Light rain was falling during the dedication ceremony which was held last Saturday morning at the veterans and fallen comrades monument which stands in the heart of downtown Anna.Phil Ray, left, presented a plaque of appreciation to Homer Hawk during Saturday morning’s ceremony.Members of the Anna-Jonesboro Community High School concert choir sang the National Anthem. They were directed by Renee McLain.

Veterans, fallen comrades monument dedicated

A dedication ceremony was conducted last Saturday morning for a monument in downtown Anna which honors veterans and fallen comrades.

The ceremony was hosted by the American Legion’s Townsend F. Dodd Post No. 344 of Anna.

Improvements, Key Addition

In January, the Anna American Legion post highlighted improvements and a key addition that had been made at the veterans and fallen comrades memorial which stands in the heart of downtown Anna.

The memorial is located  near the four-way stop intersection in the Union County community.

The project was spearheaded by the Anna American Legion Post No. 344. Homer Hawk is the commander of the post.

The monument now features a fallen soldier statue. The statue stands atop the memorial.

The Anna American Legion post has voiced its appreciation and thanks to all of those who have helped to support the project, through contributions, donations or by providing volunteer labor.

The American Legion noted that the original monument was erected in 1995 “through the combined, tireless efforts of Mr. Merle Boswell and many other proud patriotic supporters.” 

Now, with the help of many in the community, the memorial “will stand for many years to  come.”

Dedication Ceremony

Last Saturday morning’s dedication ceremony at the monument was held on a cool spring morning. Light drizzle was falling at the time. Even though the weather was cool and damp, a large number of people were on hand.

The program for the ceremony opened with a prayer by Phil Ray, VA advisory board chaplain.

The National Anthem was sung by Anna-Jonesboro Community High School concert choir members, directed by Renee McLain.

The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Jerry Hunter.

A welcome was given by Homer Hawk, commander of the Anna American Legion post.

Comments were shared by Anna Mayor Steve Hartline and Jonesboro Mayor Ken Blandford.

Keynote Speaker

The keynote speaker at the ceremony was Brig. Gen. James E. Bonner. Bonner is a native of Anna.

Bonner assumed command of the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives, CBRNE, Command on July 19, 2017, at a ceremony on McBride Parade Field, Aberdeen Proving Ground-Edgewood Area., in Maryland.

Bonner is the seventh commander of the U.S. Army 20th CBRNE Command. 

As the commander of the Army’s and the Department of Defense’s sole CBRNE organization, he is responsible for the manning, equipping and training of more than 4,000 soldiers and civilians assigned across two explosive ordnance disposal groups, one chemical brigade, and a CBRNE analytical and remediation activity.

The Anna native received a Regular Army commission in May 1988 as a distinguished military graduate from Southern Illinois University. 

His military education includes the chemical officer’s basic and advanced courses, basic airborne school, ranger school, jumpmaster school, pathfinder school, the United States Command and General Staff College, CGSC, and the U.S. Naval War College. 

He holds master’s degrees in both administration from Central Michigan University and national security and strategic studies from the United States Naval War College.

Bonner has served in chemical officer positions at all levels from the tactical to the strategic level to include both command and staff positions. 

He also served in a wide variety of units including assignments within the 75th Ranger Regiment, the Joint Special Operations Command, JSOC, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI.

Previous General Officer assignments include Headquarters, Department of the Army, HQDA, G8, director of Materiel and Chief Full Dimension Protection Division, and the 29th Chief of Chemical/Commandant, United States Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear School, United States Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

His combat experience includes a deployment to Panama with 1/75 Ranger Regiment as part of Task Force Red-Tango, when he participated in the night parachute assault and seizure of Torrijos-Tocumen Airfields during Operation Just Cause. 

As the commander for 23rd Chemical Battalion, he deployed in support of CJTF-76 to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom 06-08. 

He was also selected to redeploy back to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom in order to assist with the establishment of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command where he served as the executive officer for the deputy chief of staff for joint operations.

Bonner is married to the former Debra Hawk of Anna. They have two daughters: Lauren, who is married to Army Capt. Chris Herold, and Alison, a law student in Charleston, South Carolina.

During his keynote address at Saturday’s ceremony, Bonner voiced appreciation for having an opportunity to be back in the Anna-Jonesboro area.

He said the ceremony served as an opportunity to honor all of those who have fallen in service to the country. Bonner recognized all of the veterans who were in attendance. 

He praised work done by the American Legion post, which he said shows “a level of excellence” and a “commitment to community service.”

Bonner noted that on Friday, during a ceremony at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, he had commissioned 18 cadets as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force.

Bonner said that when he talked with the new officers, he discussed “the importance of service to our country.” 

“I believe choosing to serve something far greater than yourselves is what makes our country so great and is the foundation for our democracy.

“The American Legion is the nation’s largest veterans organization and is full of individuals committed to serving something larger than themselves.” 

“This memorial serves as a reminder of the service and sacrifices of our military members,” he said.

Saturday’s ceremony closed with a prayer by Phil Ray.

Plaque Presented

During the ceremony, Ray presented a plaque from Anna American Legion Post No. 344 to Hawk.

The plaque was presented to Hawk in appreciation for his “years of outstanding leadership.”

The plaque declared that Hawk’s vision and dedication made the restoration of the veterans monument in Anna “a reality and a fitting tribute to honor those men and women who have served our nation.”

Hawk himself made note of the work which was done for the monument by the late Jim Clary.

Contributors Recognized

The printed program for Saturday’s ceremony recognized the following contributors who supported the project:

Bill Bass Farm. City of Anna. City of Jonesboro. Concrete Solutions, Anna. Crain Funeral Homes. Homer Hawk, commander, American Legion Post No. 344. Jim Clary. Longshadow Planters and Garden Ornaments. Rendleman & Hileman Funeral Homes. Townsend F. Dodd Post 344 of the American Legion and the post’s Ladies Auxiliary.


Legion offers

free membership

The American Legion is offering free, first-year membership for new members.

Information is available by contacting Homer Hawk at 833-8193 or Phil Ray at 534-1261.

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158

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