Despite the bad rap the Rockford area and the state of Illinois may have, I am happy to be reminded every single week that this community, and this state, is FULL of extraordinary people.

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When reading through the Hometown Hero nomination letters this week, I came across this one written by Harmony Redner of Belvidere, Illinois, who is obviously a VERY proud daughter. Here is what Harmony wrote about her mother, Michelle Velmont of Belvidere, who can now add "Hometown Hero" to her list of accomplishments;

My mom is an Army vet who joined the army in 2003 and in 2010 went overseas to protect our country and her family.  She sacrificed birthdays first day of school to do what was needed.  My brother and I were very young, me belong 4 years old and my brother only being 18 months.  After departing the army my mother followed her dreams went to school and graduated with an associate's degree in veterinary medicine.  She now works in an animal hospital helping our sick four legged family members.

Thank you for sending us this letter, Harmony. I think we all need a reminder time and again about how much families of military members miss and sacrifice too when their loved one is serving our country.

To this week's Hometown Hero Michelle I would like to say thank you. Thank you not only for your service but also for working hard to make your dreams come true and provide a good example for your children. I hope that you will use the $100 Amazon gift card we are giving you courtesy of Gustafson's Furniture and Mattress to buy something that makes you smile, you totally deserve it!

If you know someone that goes out of their way to do make this community a brighter place, whether that be a Veteran, first responder, teacher, or neighbor, tell us about them, here.

Past Hometown Hero Award Winners

LOOK: Here are the 25 best places to live in Illinois

Stacker compiled a list of the best places to live in Illinois using data from Niche. Niche ranks places to live based on a variety of factors including cost of living, schools, health care, recreation, and weather. Cities, suburbs, and towns were included. Listings and images are from realtor.com.

On the list, there's a robust mix of offerings from great schools and nightlife to high walkability and public parks. Some areas have enjoyed rapid growth thanks to new businesses moving to the area, while others offer glimpses into area history with well-preserved architecture and museums. Keep reading to see if your hometown made the list.