Crystal Rock Orchard keeps veterans on track

Mar 4, 2020 | Featured | 0 comments

Image of the Crystal Rock Orchards

The Crystal Rock Orchard is a veterans support center that can provide basic skills training, such as plumbing and electrical, and will assist in job placement. (Photos by Philip Wheeler)

Freedom isn’t free


When a young person makes the life-changing decision to join the military, and before they go into active duty, it can be a scary time for both the individual and their family.

While in the service, individuals can get lost and their families forgotten.
After they are discharged, life can be traumatic, dealing with the sudden lack of structure in their life. Rebuilding relationships or beginning new ones, or finding work, can all be stressful.

“On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind,” said Daniel Lupinski, U.S. Representative for Illinois’ third congressional district.

While some groups assist veteran families while their loved one is on active duty, most center on a single aspect – helping veterans after the fact. There is always room for another avenue of assistance; especially an organization that is “womb to tomb.” What is needed are more organizations that are with a veteran from start to finish, providing help and assistance at every step of the journey.

Image of Dean Keegan, Vincent Shinault, Taylor Confessore and Dan Keegan

Dean Keegan, Vincent Shinault, Taylor Confessore and Dan Keegan, left to right, are helping veterans develop skills for everyday life.

This is where someone like Vincent Shinault can make a difference. Shinault and his partners, Dan and Dean Keegan, are the new owners of the old Dirty Boot Saloon and 10 acres of wooded property at 907 Crystal Rock Rd., Sandusky. The building is undergoing renovation and will be open soon.

As part of the non-profit fundraising, there will be an all-day corn-hole tournament at the building at the Dirty Boot Saloon on March 7. All are welcome. Call Taylor Confesssore at 419-707-3276 to sign up your team, for information, to volunteer, or to donate.

The Keegan’s are former Army. Shinault, while not a veteran, is from a family with a long Marine Corps tradition; Shinault’s father, Herbert Woodson Shinault, rose to the rank of Master Gunnery Sargent, the Marine Corps highest enlisted rank. Three of five sons have served as active duty Marines.

Shinault and the Keegan’s all come from a construction background, all were born and raised in the area, and have always hired ex-military for their workforce.

“They know how to listen. They are used to being yelled at, are willing to work, and can complete a task without supervision.” said Shinault. His vision for a new kind of center is one that will provide support for a service member from the time that they enlist, during active service, and after they are discharged.

“We want to provide assistance right from the start. We will work with local recruiters to build a database of new recruits to provide support for them and their families throughout their enlistment. When they are discharged, we want to provide job placement assistance and, if needed, skills training.” said Shinault.

Taylor Confessore is the linchpin for this program. She will be inputting the information collected, and as administrator will keep track of each individual in the program.

“We will be orientated towards, but not limited to, the military. We plan to have weddings in our hall. Non-military are welcome, but we want to concentrate on military personnel and their families.” said Confessore. “Among other things, the facility will provide help to new enlistee’s, care packages for active duty, and assistance with job placement after discharge.”

Shinault and the Keegan’s are all local guys, born and raised in the area. Shinault has just recently moved back from Florida. They all have many years in the construction business, and all make a point of hiring former military. Their new facility will house an area where they can provide basic skills training, such as plumbing and electrical, and will assist in job placement.

In addition, they plan on planting 200 apple and peach trees. They are calling their place Crystal Rock Orchard. The center for military and families is to be named in honor of Shinault’s father, Master Gunnery Sargent Herbert Woodson Shunault.

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