GALENA, Ill. — Nearly half of a century has passed since Patrick McCarthy served in the Vietnam War.
To this day, the experience sticks with him.
A member of the 25th infantry in the U.S. Army, McCarthy was stationed in the Cu-Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City in 1969 and 1970.
“I came home without a scratch and I consider myself very lucky,” he said. “I have always felt that I need to do something to repay my luck. I owe a debt of gratitude.”
McCarthy has repaid that debt and then some — and members of his community have taken notice.
He recently was recognized as the Volunteer of the Year by the Galena Area Chamber of Commerce, an award that came on the heels of more than three decades of service with that organization.
McCarthy has been involved with the chamber since 1982. For six years beginning in the mid-1990s, McCarthy was a member of the chamber’s board of directors. He also served a stint as the organization’s treasurer.
Despite this substantial record of community involvement, he said he was not expecting to earn an award.
“I was pretty well surprised by it and humbled,” McCarthy said. “I didn’t think I did all that much to deserve that recognition.”
Others in Galena beg to differ.
Jerry Howard, membership ambassador for the Galena Area Chamber of Commerce, said McCarthy’s humble nature made him even more deserving of the recognition.
“He doesn’t do these things because he seeks recognition or some kind of reward,” said Howard. “That is what makes it so great to give him such an honor.”
Perhaps the most visible of McCarthy’s many contributions occurs during the annual Halloween parade, which routinely attracts 20,000 visitors to Galena. McCarthy has worked the parade for the past 25 years and now serves as its coordinator.
Howard is among many who marvel at the parade’s annual impact.
“It has grown from a neighborhood parade with a few wagons and a few people dressed up to something so much bigger,” he said. “The parade now has multiple bands. It is a two-hour event that draws people from all over the Midwest.”
The Galena Area Chamber of Commerce is not the only organization for which McCarthy has volunteered.
He has been involved with the Rotary Club of Galena since the mid-1980s and served a stint as that group’s president. McCarthy said he takes immense pride in the many scholarships the organization has awarded to local youth.
McCarthy also has volunteered with the local 100 Club, which raises money to assist the families of emergency responders who are killed in the line of duty.
Moreover, McCarthy has done charitable work through the Knights of Columbus and served as Grand Knight.
Over the decades, McCarthy has balanced his volunteering with a busy work schedule. He serves as vice president and principal with accounting firm O’Connor, Brooks & Co. He has worked for that firm since 1988.
McCarthy is proud that both his career and volunteer work have revolved around the community he calls home.
“In a small community like Galena, there is a real sense of family,” he said. “We are all in this together. Everyone needs to work together toward a common goal.”