If a fellow veteran needs something, Herschel Luckinbill gets it done
If it is a day that ends in "Y," Herschel Luckinbill of Montgomery is probably helping fellow veterans.
He's a leader of the Fox Valley Veterans Breakfast Club. He's organized two visits to Aurora by the Moving Wall, a half-size replica of the Vietnam War veterans memorial. He's escorted veterans on 25 Honor Flights to see monuments in Washington, D.C. He served several terms on the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council.
If a veteran needs something and Luckinbill can't do it himself, he has the contacts to see that someone else gets it done.
"I just enjoy doing what I can for other veterans," he said after helping a veteran move some belongings to a storage unit.
Luckinbill, now 75, grew up in a small town in Oklahoma. In 1964, shortly after high school, he joined the Navy. He figured it was less risky than be drafted into the Army (where his father had served) or Air Force (where his brother had served).
"I thought it was the safest branch of the service -- but I was the only one to get shot at," he said.
He was a machinist's mate on the USS O'Brien, including two stints where it was stationed off the North Vietnam coast. On Dec. 23, 1966, it was directly hit by shore batteries, killing two men, including one of his bunkmates.
Aside from that, "I enjoyed every day in the Navy," said Luckinbill, who was discharged in 1967 as a petty officer second class.
He returned to Chicago with his wife, Eva, and looked up the closest Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
"They took me under their wings, and they made me feel so welcome," he said. He quickly became a post commander and by 1973 was a district commander.
The Luckinbills moved around, from Chicago to Buffalo Grove to Fox Lake. He continued membership in the VFW while raising two sons and a daughter, in Oswego, then in Arizona, then in Montgomery. He gave his time to other community organizations also, including the Jaycees and youth baseball and football organizations.
In 2008, he joined the Fox Valley Veterans Breakfast Club. The group meets once a month.
"It's just a way for veterans to more or less get out of the house, show brotherhood, show companionship, show respect and honor," Luckinbill said.
Besides the social aspect, the group does charitable work. It figures out ways to make veterans' homes fully accessible for the disabled, loans out wheelchairs, attends funeral services, and raised money to twice bring the Moving Wall to Aurora.
Luckinbill has been an escort on Honor Flight trips, and helped organize a fundraising concert at the Paramount Theater for the group.
The breakfast club also arranged for a Spanish-American War cannon at an Aurora cemetery to be refurbished, and to replace a flat gravestone for Aurora's only Medal of Honor recipient, Walter Truemper, with a monument, including a 25-foot flagpole.
"The main thing is just if a fellow veteran needs something, we will try to find out a way of getting things done," Luckinbill said. "As I tell the veterans, I don't do much myself. But I just know who can do it."