Soon travelers on the Route 23 bridge over the Vermilion River in South Streator will know Vietnam veteran Michael Ragusa’s name, if they don’t already.
The bridge will be renamed after Streator’s Ragusa, who was active in the veterans community.
The resolution names the bridge the “Vietnam Veteran Michael W. Ragusa Memorial Bridge,” after the Marine, who battled cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange, the chemical used by U.S. forces during Vietnam. Ragusa died Sept. 27, 2016.
Ragusa was a lifelong member of the Illinois AMVETS and Streator VFW; he also was a member of the AMVETS Riders, the Pekin Marine Corps League, Streator American Legion and the Streator Elks.
As deputy service director at AMVETS, Ragusa provided counseling and guidance to veterans in regard to VA benefits and employment. He provided representation at VA hearings if appeals were warranted.
He continued to help veterans, even after he went on a medical leave.
“Michael Ragusa dedicated his life to others,” said state Rep. Jerry Long, R-Streator, who proposed the resolution Wednesday on the House Floor. “His legacy is reflected in his family, his wife Roseann, daughters Renee and Kim, and three grandchildren as well as in the lives of the countless veterans he assisted and their families.
“It is only fitting that we dedicate the Route 23 bridge in Streator over the Vermilion River in his name. This is the bridge he passed over every day to go out and assist his brothers in arms.”
The bridge soon will get signage with the new name.
Ragusa was born in Streator to Joseph and Priscilla (Fulks) Ragusa in 1948; he graduated from Streator High School in 1967, and he married Roseann Liss on May 24, 1975.
He began his service in 1968 at the age of 19 in the 2nd Marine Division in Vietnam, then as a Medivac in Japan, and ended his enlistment in Illinois at the Great Lakes Naval Base.
During the Vietnam War, millions of gallons of Agent Orange were used as a weapon against the Viet Cong. Ragusa was one of the thousands of soldiers exposed to it.
“Unfortunately, he brought back part of Vietnam with him, which would impact his health, but never his spirit,” Long said in the House resolution he drafted.
Ragusa enjoyed watching the Chicago Cubs, drinking a glass of wine and spending time with his family, according to Long’s resolution.
“Ragusa was a humble man who did not truly see how special he was; he always had a kind word to say, was a great giver of advice and was an inspiration for all who knew him,” Long wrote.
Illinois AMVETS posted on its Facebook page that Ragusa was “a dedicated AMVETS Service Officer, a champion for veterans, and one of our Illinois AMVETS family.”
Ragusa’s wife thanked Long on the Facebook page for his effort in remembering Ragusa’s service.
“It’s beautiful and was a day we will forever hold in our hearts,” she wrote. “Thank you for all the time and effort you put in to make this day very special and honoring Mike.”