Military & Veterans News
Governor Quinn Signs Legislation to Support Veterans With Disabilities PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Katie Hickey   
Wednesday, 13 August 2014 08:37

New Law Removes Unnecessary Hurdles for Veterans Who Rely On the Use of Accessible Parking Spots

VILLA PARK – Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to ensure that veterans with disabilities can utilize accessible parking spaces across Illinois without facing unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles. The Governor was joined at today’s bill signing by Congresswoman and former Assistant Director of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). Congresswoman Duckworth is a decorated Iraq War veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart for serious injuries sustained during combat. Today's action is part of Governor Quinn's agenda to honor and support the men and women who have served our nation.

“Our veterans with disabilities shouldn’t have to deal with unnecessary barriers to keep their parking privileges each year,” Governor Quinn said. “This law will help make daily life a little easier for those who have fought hard to protect our country. Illinois is the most veteran-friendly state in the nation and this new law will ensure we are doing everything we can for our brave men and women who have borne the battle.”

“I am proud that Illinois is the first state to pass legislation that will make it easier for veterans with permanent disabilities to renew their accessible parking placard each year,” U.S. Representative Duckworth said. “This bill is a great way to honor our returning veterans and all who have served.”

“All of us in the veteran community are grateful for Governor Quinn’s leadership in ensuring those who serve our country, and especially those whose service required great sacrifice, have all the support they need back here in Illinois,” Acting Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Rodrigo Garcia said.

Senate Bill 3255, sponsored by State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) and State Representative Stephanie Kifowit (D-Aurora), exempts veterans with a permanent disability from the annual recertification requirement to retain their handicapped parking designation. Once a doctor has determined a veteran to have a permanent disability, the new law allows veterans to renew their placard or special license plate without submitting a doctor’s determination each year. The law is effective Jan. 1, 2015.

“It was a pleasure to work with my colleagues on behalf of our veterans who have given life and limb to pass Senate Bill 3255 and remove unnecessary roadblocks to the services they absolutely deserve,” Senator Cullerton said.

“I am honored to have passed Senate Bill 3255 which helps our veterans by alleviating an unnecessary burden to receiving services and shows our respect for the sacrifices they have made for our country,” Representative Kifowit said.

Governor Quinn has long been a leading advocate and supporter of Illinois veterans. His efforts include signing a law to create the Veterans Cash lottery ticket to be sold year round with 100 percent of proceeds supporting Illinois veterans. In 2011, Governor Quinn launched the Welcome Home Heroes program to support Illinois servicemembers seeking homeownership. Since that time more than 1,500 Illinois veterans, active military personnel, reservists and Illinois National Guard members have accessed more than $170 million to buy their homes.

The Governor also championed the Military Family Relief Fund, which has provided more than $15.4 million in support of 28,840 families of deployed servicemembers since its inception in 2003. Governor Quinn also signed a law to make employment and job training organizations eligible to receive grants through the Veterans Assistance Fund.

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News from the Illinois National Guard PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Illinois National Guard PAO   
Tuesday, 12 August 2014 15:34

Illinois Special Forces Soldiers conduct Airborne training

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Kassidy L. Snyder, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs

FORT MCCOY, WISC. (08/12/2014)(readMedia)-- With great weather for Airborne training, approximately 30 Special Forces (SF) Soldiers with the Illinois National Guard's Company A, 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Chicago, conducted day and night static line and military free fall operations at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, August 8.

Three CH-47D Chinook helicopters from Company B, 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment in Peoria, Illinois, provided transportation to and from the sky for the SF Soldiers. Static line jumps were performed from roughly 1,500 feet, while free fall jumps were from 14,000 feet.

"We rarely get the occasion for night jumps and it's a great opportunity to stay proficient and keep our jumpmasters current," said Company A, 2-20th's commander.

During the night, Soldiers performed a high altitude high opening jump where they opened the parachute immediately and traveled a lateral distance of 9 kilometers to the drop zone.

SF Soldiers must conduct four jumps a year to maintain jump proficiency. Jumpmasters are senior Soldiers who manage airborne jump operations. They inspect all equipment prior to loading the aircraft, confirm in-flight navigation and act as a safety for proper exiting procedures.

"It's always an interesting mission for us and good real-world training for the Special Forces," said Capt. A.J. Hager of Galesburg, Illinois, a Chinook pilot with Company B, 2-238th. "It keeps us proficient transporting troops and allows us to assist Soldiers within the Illinois Guard."

Company B, 2-238th returned from Afghanistan in December and was back to fully mission capable in April. The company typically does two to three paradrop operations a year in addition to passenger and cargo movement and external loads, said Hager.

Special Forces Soldiers complete a multitude of missions from maritime operations to surveillance and reconnaissance.

"Airborne operations, both static line and military free fall provide a means of infiltration; it is our way of getting to work." said Company A, 2-20th's operations officer.

A majority of the Soldiers with Company A, 2-20th are traditional Soldiers, who also hold a full-time civilian career ranging from attorney to rocket scientist and physician assistant. Their ages range from the early 20s to late 40s.

"Within the span of those ages, the knowledge and experience we have allows us to adapt a lot easier and think out of the box to meet mission requirements," said Company A, 2-20th's commander. "Most SF Guardsmen serve because they like the flexibility to have a civilian job, but do it because they want to be here too."

Editor's note: Due to the nature of Special Forces missions, names of Special Forces Soldiers are not made public.

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Freedom Salute Ceremony for Springfield-based Team that Deployed to Afghanistan; Aug. 16 ceremony recognizes Bilateral Embedded Staff Team A12

SPRINGFIELD, IL (08/12/2014)(readMedia)-- Approximately 20 Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers will be recognized Aug. 16 by the National Guard Bureau Freedom Salute Campaign for their sacrifice and service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The ceremony for the Bilateral Embedded Staff Team (BEST) A12 will be at 1 p.m. Camp Lincoln, 1301 N. MacArthur Blvd. in Springfield, Illinois.

The BEST A12 Soldiers were mobilized in September 2013 and deployed to Afghanistan, returning home in May 2014.

The team trained with the Polish Land Forces before deploying. The unique mission allowed Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers to train and deploy side-by-side with their Polish counterparts. The Soldiers are from various parts of Illinois and were selected for the mission based on their training and skills.

While embedded with Task Force White Eagle in Ghazni Province, the team enhanced the brigade's operational and logistical capabilities. The Soldiers developed and implemented the transition and retrograde plans for the base, transferring about 25 percent of the base to Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). They also prepared the remaining portions for transfer to the ANSF as the U.S. continues to withdraw troops from the region. BEST A12 also recouped more than $80 million dollars of U.S. military equipment.

The team coordinated and executed the closing ceremonies for the Ghazni Islamic Cultural Celebration and the national elections, which saw a higher voter turnout and fewer incidents than expected.

The Freedom Salute Campaign program is a small way to show these patriotic citizen-Soldiers, their families and employers how much their sacrifice is appreciated. On behalf of the National Guard Bureau, the Illinois Army National Guard will present each eligible Soldier with an encased American flag, as well as a sequentially-numbered

commemorative coin, certificate of appreciation and lapel pin. Families will also receive items recognizing their support and sacrifice.

The Freedom Salute Campaign is one of the largest Army National Guard recognition endeavors in history. It is designed to publicly acknowledge Army National Guard Soldiers and those who supported them while deployed.

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Illinois National Guard's 404th Maneuvers Enhancement Brigade BEST Warrior Competition

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Marie Schult-Slosser 404th MEB PAO

SPRINGFIELD, IL (08/11/2014)(readMedia)-- MARSEILLES, Ill. – The 44th Chemical Battalion in Galesburg, Illinois, swept the brigade level Soldier and noncommissioned officer (NCO) of the year competition at Marseilles Training Center, July 27. Sgt. Chris Morris of Robinson, Illinois, and Spc. Paul Born of Washington, Illinois, both chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialists, won against six other competitors. Both Soldiers will compete against other brigade winners at the state competition in September.

"I was actually surprised that I won," said Born, after being named the 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB) Soldier of the Year. "I just wanted to prove to myself that I could compete with the best Soldiers in the state."

Eight Soldiers competed in 11 events during the Best Warrior Competition at Marseilles, events included weapons qualifications, physical fitness test, a five-mile ruck march, land navigation, a confidence course, a call for fire exercise; they also completed Army Soldier tasks and an Army knowledge board.

"My hats off to these guys to want to put themselves through this to represent their units and themselves and eventually the state," said Master Sgt. Jose Guerrero of Grayslake, Illinois, an infantryman and operations noncommissioned officer with the 404th MEB.

Guerrero is in charge of coordinating and setting up the competition and the events, a task he has been doing at the 404th MEB and other units for years.

For Morris, the NCO of the year, this is his third year competing and his second year to move up to the state level in this competition. In 2012, he not only made it to the state level but he went on to compete at regionals, where he was knocked out of the competition.

"Of all the years I've competed, this group of competitors is the best," said Morris. "There is always one serious guy, but this year everyone was working together, motivating each other and rooting for each other. The camaraderie was great."

The eight competitors, four in the lower enlisted category (private to specialist) and four in the NCO category (corporal and above), spent three grueling days getting to know one another as they competed in the events throughout the Marseilles Training Center.

"This encourages Soldiers and to strive to be among the best and encourage them to exceed the standards," said Sgt. Maj. Shane Lammers. "This also gives brigades and battalions the opportunity to highlight the wonderful Soldiers we have in our ranks."

Soldiers spent three days testing themselves with the grueling tasks and very little time in between for rest or reflection. The afternoon of the first day, after taking tests and doing a call for fire exercise they went all in for a physical fitness test followed by a semi-formal banquet, only to rise at 4:30 a.m. the next morning to hit the ground running in the ruck march event.

"I enjoy the competition. We get to do out of the ordinary stuff like ruck marching and obstacle courses," said Morris. He also said he would advise anyone who wants to participate in this competition to, "train hard, study hard and try in every event regardless of how you did on the previous event."

For his part, Born said it is important to get a good sponsor.

"My sponsor was with me at every event, motivating me and encouraging me."

In September, both Born and Morris will return to Marseilles to test themselves against the other Soldiers who made it to the state competition.

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The 2014 Adjutant General's rifle and pistol match

MARSEILLES, IL (08/12/2014)(readMedia)-- Soldiers from around the state met at the Illinois National Guard Marseilles Training Center in Marseilles, Illinois, to compete in The Adjutant General's (TAG) Rifle and Pistol Match, 8 through 10 August.

Every unit in the Illinois National Guard has the opportunity enter a team into the TAG Match, and more than 100 Soldiers participated in the 2014 marksmanship event.

Shooters are rated both as teams and individuals using the pistol and rifle. The shooters are also evaluated on a combined arms, 3-gun match in which the Soldiers fired the pistol, rifle and shotgun.

The top 20 individual shooters received the Governor's Twenty Tab, which they can wear on their uniforms. The top three teams and individuals of each event received a plaque to display their accomplishments.

Winners of the TAG Match may be selected to join the Illinois National Guard's Marksman Team. The teams must select two new shooters to compete in regional and national events annually.

Results of the 2014 ILARNG TAG Rifle and Pistol Match:

Overall Top Three Individuals:

1. SGT Raleigh Walker of Goreville, Illinois; HHC 2/130 INF

2. CW4 Keith Koca of Custer Park, Illinois; HHC, 106 AVN

3. SSG Jacob Blount of Charleston, Illinois; 1544th Trans Co.

Overall Individual Rifle

1. CW4 Keith Koca of Custer Park, Illinois; HHC, 106 AVN

2. SGT Raleigh Walker of Goreville, Illinois; HHC 2/130 INF

3. SPC Joseph Miller of Petersburg, Illinois; HHC, 232nd CSSB

Overall Individual Pistol

1. SGT Raleigh Walker of Goreville, Illinois; HHC 2/130 INF

2. SPC Justin Titzer of Fairfield, Illinois; HHC 2/120 INF

3. SSG Jacob Blount of Charleston, Illinois; 1544th Trans Co.

Combined Arms (3-Gun)

1. SFC William Gibbs of Litchfield, Illinois; B Btry 2/123 FA

2. SSG Jacob Blount of Charleston, Illinois; 1544th Trans Co.

3. SGT Raleigh Walker of Goreville, Illinois; HHC 2/130 INF

Overall Top Three Teams

1. HHC 2/130 INF; SSG Travis Wisely of West Frankfort, Illinois; SGT Raleigh Walker of Goreville, Illinois; SGT Seth Johnson of Collinsville, Illinois; SPC Justin Titzer of Fairfield, Illinois.

2. 106 AVN.; CW4 Keith Koca of Custer Park, Illinois; CW2 Joseph Nicholas of Bolingbrook, Illinois, SSG Jason Jenkins of Montgomery, Illinois, SGT Mark Rosenak of Bartonville, Illinois.

3. 1544th Trans Co; SSG Jacob Blount of Charleston, Illinois; SSG Brent Tripp of Warsaw, Illinois; SSG Eric Daggett of Jerome, Illinois, SGT Matthew Blount of Charleston, Illinois.

Top Pistol Team

1. HHC 2/130 INF; SSG Travis Wisely of West Frankfort, Illinois; SGT Raleigh Walker of Goreville, Illinois; SGT Seth Johnson of Collinsville, Illinois; SPC Justin Titzer of Fairfield, Illinois.

2. 1544th Trans Co; SSG Jacob Blount of Charleston, Illinois; SSG Brent Tripp of Warsaw, Illinois; SSG Eric Daggett of Jerome, Illinois; SGT Matthew Blount of Charleston, Illinois.

3. 106 AVN; CW4 Keith Koca of Custer, Park, Illinois; CW2 Joseph Nicholas of Bolingbrook, Illinois; SSG Jason Jenkins of Montgomery, Illinois, SGT Mark Rosenak of Bartonville, Illinois.

Top Rifle Team

1. 232nd CSSB; SSG Drew Geer, SGT Kraig Kennedy of New Berlin, Illinois, SPC Joseph Miller of Petersburg, Illinois, SPC Thomas Winlund of Mason City, Illinois.

2. B Btry 2/123 FA; SFC William Gibbs of Litchfield, Illinois; SGT Brandon Hornung of Utica, Illinois; SGT Eric Fowler of Lansing, Illinois; SPC Josh Webb of Lewiston, Illinois.

3. C Trp 106 CAV; SGT Scott Lange of Aurora, Illinois; SPC Ryan White of Macon, Illinois; SPC Aendri Decker of Montgomery, Illinois; PFC Steven McMahon of Streamwood, Illinois.

The Governor's Twenty

1. SGT Raleigh Walker of Goreville, Illinois; HHC 2/130 INF.

2. CW4 Keith Koca of Custer Park, Illinois; HHC, 106 AVN

3. SSG Jacob Blount of Charleston, Illinois; 1544th Trans Co

4. SFC William Gibbs of Litchfield, Illinois; B Btry 2/123 FA

5. SGT Scott Lange of Aurora, Illinois, C Trp 106 CAV

6. CW2 Joseph Nicholas of Bolingbrook, Illinois; 106 ANV.

7. SGT Brandon Hornung of Utica, Illinois, C Btry 2/123 FA

8. SGT Kevin Riggle of North Aurora, Illinois; 233rd MP's

9. SPC Aendri Decker of Montgomery, Illinois, C Trp 106 CAV

10. SGT Mark Rosenak of Bartonville, Illinois, 106 AVN.

11. SPC Joseph Miller of Petersburg, Illinois; 232nd CSSB

12. SGT Seth Johnson of Collinsville, Illinois, HHC 2/130 INF.

13. 1LT Arthur Morris of Peoria, Illinois; A Co 33rd BSTB

14. SGT Matthew Blount of Charleston, Illinois; 1544th Trans Co

15. SPC Josh Burns of St. Francisville, Illinois; 631st ENG

16. SPC Justin Titzer of Fairfield, Illinois, HHC 2/130 INF

17. SPC Josh Webb of Lewiston, Illinois, B Btry 2/123 FA

18. SGT Levi Worden, Illinois; HHC 2/130 INF

19. SSG Eric Daggett of Jerome, Illinois, 1544th Trans Co

20. SSG Gino Maldonado of Aurora, Illinois, 233rd MP's

 
Schilling Veterans Bill Signed Into Law PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Jan Schweppe   
Tuesday, 12 August 2014 13:35

Schilling: "monumental step forward for veterans"


EAST MOLINE, Ill.—Bobby Schilling's veterans bill has been signed into law by President Obama.

Schilling's bill, which allows veterans the ability to use their own doctors in their own hometowns when VA waitlists prevent veterans from getting immediate access to care, did not become law overnight. Bobby Schilling (R-Colona) initially introduced the Enhanced Veterans Health Care Experience Act in 2011 and worked throughout his term to pass the bill through committee. Unfortunately, he faced gridlock and significant partisan opposition to reforming the Veterans Administration.

However, once the media firestorm surrounding the VA scandal took place, Congress finally got to work for our veterans. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Florida) picked up Schilling's bill, made a few tweaks, and introduced the Veterans Access to Care Act. Miller continued Schilling's critical work, pushed the bill through committee, and got it passed it through the House of Representatives unanimously.

For more information on Bobby Schilling's bill and the initial work he did to move it forward in Congress, click here.

The Senate passed a similar version of the bill 93-3 and proceeded to conference with the House to draft a compromise bill. The new compromise veterans legislation passed both chambers and was signed into law by President Obama last Thursday.

Bobby Schilling released the following statement:

"While there is still much work to do, this bill—now law—is a monumental step forward for veterans in this country who have been needlessly burdened with waitlists and backlogs from the VA for far too long. Now veterans have the right to use their own doctors in their own hometowns, rather than wait extended periods of time for the VA when they need care immediately.

"There are still additional reforms we need to pass to improve our veterans access to health care, but this is a monumental first step and I'm pleased to see this bill signed into law. Working on this veterans issue was a passion of mine while serving in Congress, and it's great to see our work pay off to help our heroes."

Bobby Schilling was a leader on this important issue and recognized the problems in the Veterans Administration three years ago. After the problems his own father had with the Veterans Administration, Schilling analyzed the problem and designed a creative way to help solve it without expanding government bureaucracy. He was ahead of his time in introducing his bill and was very pleased to see it signed into law. Still, there is more work to be done to serve veterans, and Bobby Schilling is seeking to once again represent the people of the 17th Congressional District to put his problem-solving skills back to work for the middle class, the working poor, and especially our veterans in need of quality, accessible health care.

Bobby Schilling was born and raised in Rock Island, Illinois. He has been married to his wife, Christie for 28 years and together they have 10 children. Schilling represented the Illinois 17th District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2011-2012, serving on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Agriculture Committee, and the House Small Business Committee. Schilling is seeking another term and is running against incumbent liberal Congresswoman Cheri Bustos.
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Serving those who served... PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Rep. Dave Loebsack   
Tuesday, 05 August 2014 13:17

As a parent of two children who serve in the military and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I know that our service members and military families have made great sacrifices over the last decade and have courageously served our nation. I strongly believe that there is no greater responsibility we have as a nation than to ensure our servicemembers, veterans, and military families receive the benefits and support they deserve.

That is why I recently hosted a series of town halls on my Serving Those Who Served tour. This annual tour gives me a chance to meet with veterans and discuss issues that are important to them. I was honored to be joined by local veterans service organizations, County Veterans Affairs Officers and other groups at these town halls. My staff was also available at each stop to provide any assistance veterans needed dealing with the federal government. As a military parent, I stand ready to help Iowans who need assistance working with military services, the VA, or other agencies.

At each town hall, I was deeply humbled by the stories and experiences the veterans shared. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I work every day to ensure our servicemembers, veterans, and military families have the equipment, training, benefits, and support they need and deserve.

I personally value the ideas and thoughts veterans have about how our country can best honor our commitment to serving those who have worn our nation’s uniform. That is why I look forward to hosting my Serving Those Who Served tour and will continue to fight against proposals to reduce or eliminate essential benefits for those who have made great sacrifices on behalf of our nation. If you or someone in your family is a veteran and needs assistance, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Sincerely,

Dave Loebsack
Iowa's Second District

 
Special Programs to Honor Veterans at the 2014 Iowa State Fair PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Lori Chappell   
Tuesday, 05 August 2014 08:29

DES MOINES, IA (08/04/2014)(readMedia)-- On Monday, August 11, the Iowa State Fair will honor active and retired military with special Veterans' Day programming and discounts throughout the day. "Nothing Compares" to the Iowa State Fair, August 7-17.

Veterans will be honored with discounted gate admission on Veterans' Day, August 11. With a military I.D., retired and active members of the armed forces and their spouses will receive $8 gate admission from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Veterans' Day will also feature special patriotic programming.

The Veterans' Day parade, an annual tradition featuring military bands, floats and more, will parade down the Grand Concourse at 11 a.m.

The Spirit of Liberty Foundation's Freedom Bell will be on display north of the Administration Building through August 11. The bell honors our armed forces past, present and future.

Stop by the West Grand Exhibit Area to check out Hoover Presidential Library Museum display focused on President Hoover's food relief efforts during World War I. Brush up on your history, snag a Hoover biscuit and be sure to catch the Hoover Humanitarian Relief Ship as it cruises the grounds daily at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Visit the "Remembering Our Fallen" display in the Richard O. Jacobson Exhibition Center Atrium and pay tribute to Iowa's military who have died from wounds since September 11, 2001. The display is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The special events don't stop there. Throughout the day Fairgoers can enjoy performances such as a military tribute concert honoring Iowa's veterans as well as performances by the 34th Army Band and Iowa Military Veterans' Band.

"Nothing Compares" to the 2014 Iowa State Fair, August 7-17. The Fairgrounds are located at East 30th and East University Avenue, just 10 minutes east of downtown Des Moines. Discounted gate admission tickets are on sale now through our convenient print at home ticket option at iowastatefair.org. For more information, call 800/545-FAIR or visit iowastatefair.org.

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