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Harrisburg man recognized as Illinois' oldest living veteran

  • Michael Hillegas DAR Regent Sharon Tanner, left, applauds while chapter vice regent Sheila Albright holds a certificate of recognition for Illinois' oldest living veteran, William Gilbert Ledbetter of Harrisburg.

    Michael Hillegas DAR Regent Sharon Tanner, left, applauds while chapter vice regent Sheila Albright holds a certificate of recognition for Illinois' oldest living veteran, William Gilbert Ledbetter of Harrisburg.
    BRETT PINKERTON PHOTO

  • William Gilbert Ledbetter contemplates a certificate of recognition he received from the Michael Hillegas DAR chapter on Monday.

    William Gilbert Ledbetter contemplates a certificate of recognition he received from the Michael Hillegas DAR chapter on Monday.
    BRETT PINKERTON PHOTO

 
By Brett Pinkerton
Contributing Writer
updated: 6/5/2018 12:07 PM

HARRISBURG -- A 104-year-old Harrisburg man received recognition Monday for being the oldest living veteran in Illinois.

Harrisburg resident William Gilbert Ledbetter was given recognition for his service in the U.S. Merchant Marine by the Michael Hillegas Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The honor was presented to Ledbetter in his residence at Saline Care Monday morning.

Ledbetter was humble regarding the recognition.

"I did all I could," Ledbetter said.

DAR members Sheila Albright and Sharon Tanner spoke on behalf of the organization. In front of an audience of Ledbetter's family and Saline Care residents, Albright and Tanner presented Ledbetter with a certificate of recognition. Albright described the privilege of honoring Ledbetter's extensive life and career as nothing short of special.

Born in 1913 in Harrisburg, Ledbetter enlisted in the Merchant Marine, where he served from 1942 to 1946. The Merchant Marine was in charge of getting weapons and other goods to fighting forces wherever they were during World War II, an often harrowing assignment.

In 2017, the Department of Defense bestowed five medals on Ledbetter -- the European Campaign Medal, the Victory Medal, the Pacific Campaign Medal, the Mediterranean Campaign Medal and the Maritime Honor Medal.

"We're absolutely thrilled and honored to do this," Albright said.

Originally founded in 1927, DAR seeks to recognize and honor nationwide the many individuals who served within the U.S. military and armed forces. The organization thrives on three main goals of historic preservation, education, and patriotism.

Albright has worked within the DAR for 50 years, Tanner for 10. Collectively, the pair work on behalf of the DAR to bring recognition to the many servicemen whose contributions have remained publicly obscured.

"I think in this day and age, we need to make people very aware of our patriotic spirit," Tanner said.

Ledbetter's fellow residents cite Ledbetter's time spent within the service as the sign of a good man and a good soldier. He was honored by the DAR for his valor, service, and sacrifice.

After being awarded the certificate, a jovial Ledbetter spoke to his audience.

"I'm very proud," Ledbetter said. "Here we are in a great country."