LAWRENCEVILLE, Ill. (WTHI) - As Vigo County is observing its 200th birthday, so is the state of Illinois.
One of the many ways the state is celebrating is by honoring those who put their lives on the line for us. News 10 caught up with one incredible veteran from right here in the Wabash Valley. Illinois Veteran Mallory Russell is one in a million.
Russell shares, "I called to RSVP and I asked what the dress code was because I was like, 'Ah, I'll just show up in jeans and a flannel shirt.' And she goes, 'No, no, no, honey, it's cocktail attire' and I was like, 'Crap!'"
And, Russell is also one in 200. 200 veterans across the state of Illinois were selected to be an Honor 200 recipient. It's an award for the state's bicentennial.
Nominees were chosen based on achievements, contributions to their communities, and must've been honorably discharged.
Russell recalls, "I was in active duty from 2005 to 2009. May 5th, of 2008 I was hit with a roadside bomb, breaking my hip in two places, bulging my back in two places. I continued in Iraq from May until November. I got out in February."
Despite all that Russell had gone through, she still had a heart to serve in the Reserves. But unfortunately, she couldn't because of her injuries.
Russell says, "I've had nine surgeries, and I'm 33-years-old, and 80 percent disabled."
Though under her belt, a long list of accolades. 2 Army Commendation Medals, 3 Army Achievement Medals, an Iraq Campaign Medal, Combat Action Badge, and the list goes on! But Russell is still humble about the award and says she's honored to be in such good company.
She shares, "There's a lot of veterans in Illinois, and there's a lot of veterans in Indiana, and there's a lot of Veterans across the world. And to be picked as one of 200 is simply amazing."
One of the service projects that helped Russell qualify for the award, is Heroes on the Water.
Russell explains, "I'm with a not-for-profit organization called Heroes on the Water. We take veterans, disabled veterans, and first responders out and put them in kayaks. They can go kayaking, they can go kayak fishing."
It's a cause near to Russell's heart, and a way for her to keep giving back to the country she loves.
She says, "It's to rehabilitate, rejuvenate, just kind of relax and get away. Just to get away from all the stress of life. It's amazing. I'd do it every day if I could."
If you'd like to get involved with Heroes on the Water, Russell says the best way to do so is by Facebook. The group is always seeking volunteers, donations, and suggestions for new fishing spots!
Russell will attend Illinois' official 200th birthday ball at the United Center in Chicago on December 3rd.
Russell shares, "It means a lot that the Department of Veterans Affairs wants to take the time to look into veterans and award them for the hard work they've done."
To view all 200 honorees, click here.
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