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Aurora man is dedicated to honoring veterans


If you are a veteran living in the Aurora area, you may have run in to John Montesano.

Perhaps he visited you in a nursing home, or took your picture at a Memorial Day ceremony. His portraits of veterans are on display on a wall of honor at the Walmart in Oswego.

Montesano, who grew up in Chicago, was in the Illinois National Guard from 1966 to 1972. His unit was called up several times in the late 1960s during turbulent times in Chicago, including the West Side riots after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and the protests during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

For a long time, Montesano thought of himself as a citizen-soldier, not a veteran. But, he says, local veterans say he is one of them because he demonstrated he was willing to do what it took to protect the United States.

“What is a veteran? It should be the fact that you signed on the dotted line” to uphold the Constitution of the United States, Montesano says.

In 2013, he heard the Moving Wall, a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, would be displayed at West Aurora High School. He volunteered to take photographs.

“That has opened a lot of opportunities to me,” Montesano said.

One of the organizers suggested he join the American Legion.

“It was a total flip,” Montesano said. He now belongs to Roosevelt Post 84[1], which meets at the Colonial Cafe on West Galena Boulevard in Aurora. He is in the Fox Valley Veterans Breakfast Club. He has been a delegate to the Kane County Veterans Assistance Commission.[2] He visits veterans in nursing homes and assisted living centers.

Then there is his camera work.

“I’ve kind of involved myself as everybody’s photographer,” he said.

He photographs a car show that raises money for veterans. He publishes a calendar with portraits of veterans, and has a website, John Montesano Photography[3], where people can download photos. He doesn’t charge.

He has been on four Vets Roll[4] trips to visit war memorials — one as a photographer and three as an assistant. Vets Roll, based out of South Beloit, takes World War II and Korean War-era veterans and war-effort workers by bus to Washington, D.C.

And he writes a monthly column about veterans, for The Voice newspaper.

“It has been a privilege for me to talk to all these guys,” Montesano says.




  1. ^ Roosevelt Post 84 (
  2. ^ ane County Veterans Assistance Commission. (
  3. ^ John Montesano Photography (
  4. ^ Vets Roll (


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