Hometown Hero is definite leader

By Amanda Porterfield | aporterfield@wcia.com

Published 01/07 2014 11:04AM

Updated 12/12 2014 11:07AM

CHAMPAIGN -- The 108th Sustainment Brigade of the Illinois National Guard is shipping out overseas this month. 280 soldiers will deploy to Kuwait. Over the last few months, WCIA-3's Amanda Porterfield followed a local soldier as he prepared for deployment and has our Hometown Hero.

In a crowd of camouflage, you can't separate him from a fellow soldier.

"It's a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood that you can't find in other places."

But, hang around Anthony Meneely long enough and it will become clear why he stands out.

"I think of it like a big game. You are in the same uniform, just like a team. A lot of people have high spirits. It's a really exciting experience to have."

What he's helping these Illinois National Guard soldiers prepare for is serious. It's a mock Army security checkpoint; almost exactly like the ones they'll be manning in Kuwait.

Meneely and his unit trained in Marseilles. For some of them, it's their first time deploying to the Middle east. It will be Meneely's fourth.

"I joined right out of high school, so I have definitely always been more mature. Always been a bit of a dreamer. I think I am a little more grounded and can put my dreams into practice now that I have gotten the discipline and mind focus."

It's no wonder these guys look up to him. He has thirteen years of experience.

"Sergeant Meneely is an exceptional leader."

On this particular day, he was rewarded for never hesitating to pass it on.

"I've always said work hard and good things will come from it. Just my responsibility to train and mentor the young soldiers."

But, earlier this year, Meneely stepped into another role, still in uniform, but not one of a veteran yet.

"It's definitely a contrast walking into this new and blind. You become somewhat of an expert in one job and now I'm new at this job. It's a different feeling."

He's nine months into his job as an Urbana police officer. Meneely's learning that being a cop is a lot more than what you see in the movies.

"There's not just car chases and chasing after bad guys."

While there are a lot of differences from the military, it's also very much of the same.

"Radio etiquette, number one is night and day between the two, but, there's a lot of compassion with talking with people. You are almost more of a social worker."

But, for this Champaign native, protecting his own is everything he thought it would be.

"It's definitely challenging. It's exciting. I enjoy the work. It allows me to help the community and work within the community, but everyday is different."

Work he'll have to put on hold for an entire year.

"Getting a little bit more nervous and excited all at the same time about the deployment. Anytime you are about to go into the unknown, it's a different experience. You start getting the butterflies about a month away."

For the last few months, Meneely has been focusing on his most important roles; husband and father to five children.

"I am talking to the kids a lot more about it, asking them how they feel about it. Keeping an open dialogue with them is the best thing and letting them know that I am not going to disappear for a year."

It's Meneely's last night at home, but not really, because, for him, that's where the heart is.

"It's always hard to leave your family. At the same time, my family understands that this is something that I love to do."

His is with his country.

"You can't do anything forever, but I'll do it as long as I can."

Meneely is a decorated veteran with 27 medals including a bronze star. He left for a farewell ceremony in the Chicago-area. The unit will train in Fort Hood, TX, before heading to Kuwait.

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