Enlisting to ‘give something back’
By Mike Nolan email@example.com November 11, 2013 9:56PM
Posting of colors during Veterans Day ceremony in Tinley Park on Monday. Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media.
Updated: December 13, 2013 6:13AM
Military service runs deep in Wiley Roberts’ family.
His grandfather fought in World War I, and his father and four uncles served in the military during World War II.
“I had one uncle who lost his hearing at the Battle of the Bulge, and my namesake Uncle Wiley was on a destroyer in the Pacific,” he said.
During a Veterans Day observance Monday in Tinley Park, Roberts recounted how his involvement in training Air Force reservists led him to follow in their steps.
Roberts, chairman of the village’s veterans commission, is an operating room nurse at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Following the surgical nursing training he delivered to the reservists at the hospital, Roberts, at 37, enlisted in the Air Force Reserve.
Roberts told the audience at the Gen. Patrick Rea Veterans Plaza at the 80th Avenue Metra station that he realized he needed “to give something back to the nation that had given me so much.” He retired from the Air Force Reserve in March, with the rank of major, after 22 years of service.
Roberts joined at the time of Desert Storm and went to Iraq in 2003 and again in 2008. He was part of an air medical staging squadron, getting wounded soldiers stabilized enough so they could be flown to a hospital to “make sure they get to the next level of care.”
After his initial deployment, Roberts volunteered in 2003 to join Tinley Park’s veterans commission to “give something to my community.” He has been chairman since 2006.
Talking after his public comments, Roberts said that when he enlisted, his wife fully supported his decision. His children were just 6 and 8, and he had to explain to them his reasons for doing it and that his deployments would mean missing birthdays and school functions.
“They understood why I had to be away,” he said.
As part of Monday’s observance, Roberts presented the Col. David Seaman Volunteer Veterans Recognition Award to James Hunter for his support for veterans, including his efforts to revive American Legion Post 615’s Sons of the American Legion program.
Hunter, a Tinley Park resident, has also volunteered as a fundraiser and participant for “Honor Flight Chicago,” in many instances paying his airfare to chaperone veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II Memorial.