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Local Army veterans share their military experiences

With Veterans Day right around the corner, it’s important to get to know some of our local heroes. 

One of those is Army Veteran Naythan Stewart who enlisted in 1998 at the age of 23. 

"A lot of my friends already enlisted," Steward explains. "My grandpa was a World War II veteran, it was just something that I felt like I needed to do."

He was military police and deployed to Baghdad, Iraq for a little more than a year. 

Stewart says there were a lot of memories from his time overseas, but his favorite is when he got to return home. 

He  landed at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and had Illinois State Troopers escort him and his comrades to Springfield, where the streets were lined with people welcoming them back. 

"It felt really good, especially knowing how the Vietnam vets were treated when they came home," Stewart explains. 

He currently serves as the Junior Vice Commander at Benton VFW and as the Senior Vice Commander at the Benton American Legion. 

Another Army Veteran is Gary Fravel, who signed up for the Army right after he turned 18 years old. 

Fravel says it’s a tradition in his family that dates back to the Civil War and felt like it was an obligation to keep it going. 

When Fravel first enlisted he was assigned to tank as an armored crewman and eventually worked his way up to First Sergeant of various armored companies. 

His first overseas assignment was in Germany where he patrolled the borders of East Germany and the Czech Republic, then known as Czechoslovakia. 

The 21-year veteran also served in Desert Storm as a First Sergeant of a provisional tank battalion. 

Prior to the ground war his battalion and guarded water points, fuel stations and ammo depots. 

Once fighting started, they protected supply routes and other necessary areas. 

Fravel is now Commander of the Benton VFW, and more recently VFW Commander of District 15. 

The Benton VFW and American Legion is hosting a Veterans Day ceremony and celebration. 

A ceremony will be held at the Masonic and Odd Fellows Cemetery at 11 p.m. sharp. 

Attendees will then make their way to the Benton VFW/American Legion for a short ceremony at the Civil War cemetery behind the building. 

A free chili dinner will take place afterward and is open to the public. 

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