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Vets get assistance at Lipinski’s fair

About 200 veterans attended an informational fair Tuesday Dec. 10 2013 arranged for them by office U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski

About 200 veterans attended an informational fair on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, arranged for them by the office of U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) in Oak Lawn. | Steve Metsch~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 12, 2014 6:31AM

Gus Iannotti was on a mission Tuesday morning.

The 65-year-old Army veteran from Chicago Ridge needs to get official documentation of his duty in Vietnam because he has nothing that states he served in that war.

So he came to a veterans fair arranged by U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-3rd, at the Johnson-Phelps VFW Post 5220 in Oak Lawn. About 200 veterans from all branches of the Armed Forces came the two-hour session at the post, 9514 S. 52nd Ave., said Joe Bonomo, who handles veterans issues for Lipinski.

Iannotti’s issue was simple — he wants something on paper that proves he indeed is a Vietnam War veteran. Like many vets, he knows exactly how long he was in action.

“One year, seven months and 16 days,” Iannotti said with a smile.

Not that he was counting.

“I asked for all my military records (a few years ago). I got my records, but they had nothing in there about Vietnam. Nothing. They left everything out about Vietnam,” Iannotti said.

“Maybe they don’t want me to have it. ... I stopped an enemy infiltration to our base camp. I found a tunnel under the fence and sounded the alert. I got awarded letters of appreciation. I don’t have any of that stuff. So they’re going to look into it,” Iannotti said.

Lipinski’s staff was joined by the Illinois and U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and other organizations to assist veterans with a variety of issues — military personnel and medical records, veterans’ claims and benefits, medals earned but not received, VA Hospital billing, placement in VA homes, GI Bill information and more.

Insurance company representatives were present, as was CapTel, which offers telephones that have captioned messages for veterans at no charge through the VA.

Former Oak Lawn Trustee Jerry Hurckes, now chief of staff in Lipinski’s Chicago office, said the fair offers a sort of one-stop shopping venue for the veterans.

“We have all these organizations that provide services,” he said. “Veterans can go from table to table, learning about what’s being offered to them. And there’s a lot of free stuff they give away, which is always nice. It’s just a win-win. ... I’d bet that since he’s been the congressman, we’ve done close to 100 of these.”

Ed Gorecki, 87, of Oak Lawn, wouldn’t miss the fair for the world. He served in the Navy during World War II. His brother, Joseph, died when the USS Indianapolis was sunk by the Japanese in July 1945 in shark-infested waters of the Pacific Ocean.

“I know Congressman Lipinski, and I know his dad (former U.S. Rep. Bill Lipinski),” Gorecki said. “Anything going on in Oak Lawn pertaining to veterans I’m interested in.”

A representative from Hines VA Hospital signed up veterans for health care services and worked on coordinating outreach events at VFW and American Legion posts.

Leroy Noble, 78, of Bridgeview, served in the safe setting of Arlington Heights during his two-year Army stint from 1958 to 1960. An accountant, he was ordered by a superior officer to start up a credit union for fellow servicemen.

“I don’t have a letter stating that I ran the credit union. I’d like that recognition for my daughters and grandkids,” Noble said. “So Joe (Bonomo) is trying to find out exactly what may be on record. ... I’m also trying to find out what happened to the credit union. I can’t find anything on the Internet about it.”

Bonomo said Tuesday’s fair was one of the busiest that he has attended.

“It’s gone extremely well,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of new cases to sort through at the office.”

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