Central Illinois newspaper owner and community leader John Galer has been named Illinois state chairman of an effort to provide state funerals for World War II veterans.
Galer will lead local efforts for the nonprofit association called, State Funeral for World War II Veterans.
The bipartisan efforts call for a request of the president of the United States to designate the highly ritualized, final salute to the Greatest Generation of veterans. A state funeral is a seven- to 10-day national event and consists of ceremonies within the state where the honoree was in residence, within Washington, D.C., and in the state (or at Arlington National Cemetery) where the authorized individual has chosen to be interred.
The White House holds sole authority to hold a state funeral and does not require approval from the U.S. Congress to enact.
“It’s really a privilege to be part of this project,” said Galer. “My grandfather served in World War I and my father in World War II. Military service runs through several generations of my family. This is my way to honor them and all of those who served.”
Galer currently owns and publishes 10 community newspapers in Central Illinois, including ones in Hillsboro, Mount Olive, Bunker Hill and Macoupin County.
A native of Hillsboro, he started in the newspaper business in 1972. Galer received the Illinois Press Association Distinguished Service Award in 2017. He also gives his time to numerous civic, foundation and charity organizations. Galer also recently joined Image Hillsboro, a nonprofit seeking to revitalize the town through a myriad of economic and community initiatives.
“We are blessed that John agreed to spearhead our Illinois campaign” said State Funeral for World War II Veterans national Chairman Lee William (Bill) McNutt. “To date, five states have adopted resolutions supporting our efforts and six more states’ congressional delegations have sent letters to the President endorsing our organization. We need more to ensure that we offer this fitting tribute to the 16 million men and women of the greatest generation who served in our armed forces from 1941 to 1945.”
State Funeral for World War II Veterans organization requests the public to offer their support by visiting its Change.org petition.
All funeral arrangements are made by The U.S. Military District of Washington, D.C., and involve Armed Forces honor guards, elite military bands, and/or guns support (source White House.gov website). The last two State Funerals were Ronald Reagan in 2004 and George Bush in 2018. The last non-Presidential State Funeral was General Douglas MacArthur in 1964.
“Our nation has held many state funerals for Generals, but never one for an enlisted man” said Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient Donald Ballard who serves on the National Board of the organization. “But we have never had a State Funeral for an enlisted man. All three living MOH holders from the Second World War were enlisted men, not officers.”
This effort is the brainchild of McNutt’s 10-year-old daughter, Rabel, a public school student, in honor of her godfather, Walter Ehlers, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient for his efforts at The Battle for Normandy in June 1944.
Three World War II Medal of Honor recipients remain with us: Hershel “Woody” Williams of West Virginia, Francis (Frank) Currey of New York and Charles Coolidge of Tennessee. All three are more than 90 years of age.