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Director Tammy Duckworth Honors Central Illinois Veteran Who Brings Holiday Spirit to Fellow Comrades

Press Release - Wednesday, December 17, 2008

BLOOMINGTON - With Christmas Eve just one week away, Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs (IDVA) Director L. Tammy Duckworth today named lifelong Illinoisan Ronald E. Umdenstock as the State of Illinois' December, 2008 "Veteran of the Month" for his service to the nation and the tireless work he does spearheading a program that ensures older Veterans throughout Illinois receive gifts during the holiday season. 
The "Veteran of the Month" award is a distinction that is given monthly to military Veterans who give back to their community and continue to serve other Veterans.  Umdenstock was honored with the prestigious award this afternoon during a special ceremony at the American Legion State Headquarters in Bloomington. 
"Over the last decade, Ronald Umdenstock has brought the spirit of the holiday season to his fellow comrades.  After serving the people of this country in uniform, he continues to volunteer his time serving others.  On behalf of the State of Illinois I am proud to honor Ronald with the ‘Veteran of the Month' award as a way to extend our deepest gratitude and appreciation for all he has done and continues to do," said IDVA Director Tammy Duckworth.
Umdenstock is a United States Army Veteran who proudly served on active duty from 1961-1963 and then continued his service in the Army Reserves until 1967.  He was in the Heavy Weapons Department, served as a squad leader and was assigned to the Combat Support Unit in Fort Benning, Georgia.  For his military service, Umdenstock received a number of citations including Expert Qualifications at Rifle, Mortar, and Pistol. 
Although his military service ended in 1967, Umdenstock has continued to remain involved with the Veteran community, serving those who he fought beside.  For more than ten years, Umdenstock has participated in the Gifts to the Yanks Who Gave - a program where volunteers collect and then deliver gifts to Veterans living in the local nursing and retirement homes during Christmas time.  He has chaired the program for seven years, co-chaired the program for two years, and has been involved with the program for several years before that.  Umdenstock works on this program all year round, tirelessly raising money to purchase the gifts.  Each year, he has a personal goal to raise $150,000, and every year, Umdenstock has made or exceeded this goal. 
Umdenstock is in charge of ordering the gifts, sending out the necessary forms to the American Legion and Auxiliary members so they can contact their local nursing homes.  Umdenstock personally contacts the Division chairmen making arrangements for a gift drop off place and then travels all over Illinois so the American Legion and Auxiliary members can pick up their gift orders and deliver them to their local Veterans. Close to 8,000 Christmas gifts are delivered to Illinois Veterans each year. 
Umdenstock is a loyal and dedicated volunteer to Illinois Veterans, advocating for all those in need.  He regularly visits Veterans at the local nursing homes, making sure they received their discharge papers or that their spouse is able to travel with them to their doctor appointments.  He unselfishly spends his time and energy to better the lives of the residents and patients.
Umdenstock currently is certified as a VA Voluntary Service Deputy Representative of the American Legion at the VA Illiana Heath Care System VA Voluntary Service Committee, for the Peoria Outpatient Clinic.  Umdenstock was also recently appointed Supervisor of the Veterans Assistance Commission (VAC) for Woodford County, helping Veterans and their families in need of assistance.  He was extremely involved in coordinating a Veterans Day Ceremony at the Eureka Court House this year. 
Umdenstock is also a dedicated member of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the Tazewell Military Rights Group, which is an organization that performs at military funerals throughout the local area.
In addition to his voluntary commitment to the area's Veterans, Umdenstock has also been actively involved with the local youth community.  He supports the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce which helps young adults to build success in the areas of business development, management skills, individual training, community service and international connections.  He also regularly speaks to children at local elementary schools, sharing his stories of the military and raising awareness of the current state of the military and the millions of Veterans in need.
Born in Peoria, Illinois in 1937, Umdenstock is a current resident of East Peoria.  He is a proud husband and father of two daughters. 
The "Veteran of the Month" award highlights the work of community activists who are also military Veterans.  Each month the Department recognizes a different person or group that contributes to the betterment of communities across the state of Illinois.  To nominate a "Veteran of the Month," please visit IDVA's website at or call IDVA at (312) 814-5538 to obtain a list of guidelines and a nomination form.