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Saluting Seven: Manteno Veterans dead from COVID-19 remembered this Memorial Day

Unlike New York, Illinois has not released any names of Veterans struck down by COVID-19 at Manteno, the only Veterans Home in Illinois to record a death from the pandemic.

Paying tribute to our recently lost has always highlighted any Memorial Day celebrations.

In modern history, ranging from those who served in World War 2 to honoring recently fallen from 9-11 when we honored police and firefighters like never before.  This year, we add doctors and nurses at the frontline to the growing list of honorees. 

But there is a select few this Memorial Day hits harder in Illinois than veterans who have recently lost their battle with COVID-19. 

A loss none-greater felt than that at the Manteno Veterans Home, which has now seen seven die at that facility, cut down by the pandemic.  The true injustice? Little is known by the public about these soldiers who silently fell after serving their country to an invisible enemy.

No other Illinois Veterans Home has experienced a COVID-19 related death to date. The first COVID-19 related case to the Manteno facility was reported by Country Herald on April 4th.

According to the New York Times, COVID-19 has now spread to 40 veterans’ homes in the U.S. across more than 20 states, accounting for the loss of at least 300 veterans. 

A Queens Veterans Home was so stricken by their losses; they released the names of nearly 50 veterans who have died from novel coronavirus. It’s an act of defiance at the institution and a sign of respect for the legacy of these heroes this Memorial Day. The Veterans died between March 27th and April 29th at a New York State Veterans Home in St. Albanes.  

It’s one of five operated by the State of New York Department of Health.

Here in Illinois, no such act of defiance or hint of has been given my employees at the Manteno state-run facility. But these seven lives deserve remembrance. At last report, 34 residents and 19 staff members had been infected with COVID-19 on the Manteno campus. 

Under anticipation such a move would be made by Illinois officials to release names and service records from the Governors’ office this past weekend ahead of Memorial Day, no such information was volunteered by the State.

Overshadowed or forgotten in light of Illinois’ pandemic legislative session.

Legally, Illinois is not required to release or give out such information. For the times we live in though, it remains questionable why such information would be withheld. It’s unlikely any family would openly want to not recognize the accomplishments of their loved ones.

Today, State officials, including the National Guard, took the holiday off. A statement from the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs is expected Tuesday on the current conditions at Manteno.

At maximum capacity, the Manteno Veterans Home provides care for 294 veterans. At least 15 veterans can be supported at the adjacent Prince Home facility. Other Illinois Veterans homes have had residents test positive, including at LaSalle and Anna. No cases have been reported at Quincy.

The State’s four Veterans Homes are funded to care for 800 veterans and their spouses and widows.

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