Veteran gives decades of service in central Illinois

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RANTOUL, Ill. (WCIA) — He’s a member of the greatest generation, but that’s not all.

“I went to work for the United States Air Force Civil Service,” explained Leonard Wirges, from his couch in Rantoul. “My wife was a secretary and I was an industrial instructor from a lot of my Army experience.”

Wirges grew up in Nebraska, near Grand Island.

He and his wife Lorraine moved to Rantoul in 1960.

“I was a technical instructor on special vehicles: fire trucks, deicers, minuteman missile transporter erector truck, refueler, a lot of runway equipment.”

That’s how Wirges explained his work at Chanute Air Force Base.

He would also travel to bases around the world and across the country, ultimate spending what would amount to nine years on the road during his 25-year stint at Chanute.

“We’d go to countries in Europe,” he said. “I’d go out of country probably every other year and teach at a couple bases. Iceland, England, Germany, Spain, the Azores, Italy. Enjoyed it all, but the United States still the top country for me.”

Wirges didn’t attend college.

Instead, he jokes his time in the Army was his college education.

“I spent two and a half years straight in the Pacific during World War Two,” said Wirges.

He returned to service during the Korean War before eventually retiring as a chief warrant officer in the reserves.

While Wirges retired from his work at Chanute in 1985, his wife Lorraine continued her work as a secretary on base until its permanent closure in 1993.

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