Pay It Forward: Never Forget

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MONMOUTH, Illinois - For Cheri Stanton, it's not work, it's duty.

This Vietnam-era veteran is still going above and beyond the call of duty, and others at the Monmouth American Legion post think she needs to get credit for her support to military families all around Illinois.

"Cheri, we're giving you, from Ascentra Credit Union in the Quad Cities, I nominated you to get the award," says Helen Hull, a friend who nominated Cheri for the News 8/Ascentra Credit Union "Pay It Forward" program.

"It's for all the work you do for our veterans.  It's all very much appreciated.  Thank you so much," Hull said.

In Monmouth, the monthly dinner literally keeps the lights on at the American Legion Post.  Cheri has been a post commander, an organizer of fundraisers, and a driving force for helping Warren County military men, women and families.

"They go through a lot to sacrifice for everybody and it's just kinda our obligation to say 'Thank you,'" says Cheri.

"One person makes a difference?  Cheri is as far as I'm concerned," says Helen. "Cheri is the one who has probably made a world of difference for a lot of things."

One effort close to Cheri's heart if the ongoing "Pillowcase Project," an effort to make pillowcases inked with the pictures of deployed servicemen and women which are shared with family members.  It's proved to be a very big undertaking.

"At one point I had 12 ladies ironing pillowcases and it took forever and we blew a lot of fuses but the troops just really appreciate having them done," says Cheri.

The "Pillowcase Project" has become an intimate reminder for the families, especially for the children left behind.  It struck a chord for the daughter of one man recently deployed.

"It was just a way that he could...he really appreciated to have a pillowcase there so she could take her frustrations out and then everything was better," Cheri said.

Cheri's help for veterans comes at a price.  A lot of these volunteers give time, effort and their own money to help their neighbors and the people they don't even know.

But for Cheri, there will always be one picture that sticks in her mind and reminds her why this tour of duty is so important.  It came from a Marine in Peoria.

"He pulls out the picture, sends all the grandmothers there into tears because it's a picture of a sonogram," Cheri said.

Cheri says the American Legion is gearing up for its next big project: helping with the December deployment of 210 soldiers out of Chicago.  She says it has special significance because 140 children are left behind.

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