Military & Veterans News
Military Support Charity Expands Mission, Delivers Care Packages to Veterans PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Operation Gratitude   
Tuesday, 14 August 2012 10:36

Van Nuys, CA -- In its on-going mission to express the appreciation of the American people for the sacrifices of our Military, troop support organization Operation Gratitude has expanded its efforts by delivering thousands of care packages to Military Veterans around the country.

A "Welcome Home Heroes" celebration sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), a weekly gathering of mostly World War II veterans and a Vietnam Veterans picnic are just a few of the venues at which many of the "Veterans Care Packages" were recently distributed...and emotionally received.

Upon receiving his care package, one Vietnam Veteran remarked, "No one ever said 'thank you' to me before. All that happened when I returned home was I got cursed at and spat on."

At the gathering of World War II veterans, package recipients nostalgically looked through the items in their care packages and commented how nice or useful it would have been to receive the enclosed snacks and hygiene products when they were at war. The veteran warriors were especially moved by the personal letters of thanks written by children.

Operation Gratitude founder, Carolyn Blashek wants Veterans from all eras to know their service is not forgotten. "It's never too late to say 'Thank You' to these heroic men and women," she says.

Steve PolitisBlashek cherishes the words of 92-year-old World War II veteran, Steve Politis (pictured left) who said upon receiving an Operation Gratitude Care Package from her: "You are the first person in history to give a care package to someone who served in a war before you were even born."

Many more care package distribution events are planned in the coming months, leading up to a big outreach for Veterans Day in November. Operation Gratitude volunteers are spending August and September assembling these special gifts, which contain many of the same items sent to those currently serving in harm's way.   Vet care package

Blashek hopes to get the word out nationwide, noting, "We will send care packages to VA hospitals, Veterans nursing homes, Veterans groups, and other Veteran support organizations all across the country." She added: "Just as with our care packages to deployed troops, we want to put a smile on the face of every Veteran who courageously served our nation."

Program/Activity Directors and Representatives from Veterans groups should contact Operation Gratitude at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to request Veterans Care Packages.

Every Veterans Care Package contains donated products and costs the organization $15 to assemble and ship. Financial Donations to support this program can be made online here: Send a Veterans Care Package

Businesses wishing to donate should contact Dana Chotiner at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for more information about corporate sponsorships.

About Operation Gratitude: Operation Gratitude annually sends 100,000+ care packages filled with snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation addressed to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed in harm's way, to their children left behind, to Veterans, to Military families and Veterans in financial distress due to unemployment, to Emergency First Responders and to Wounded Warriors recuperating in transition units. The organization's mission is to lift morale, bring a smile to a service member's face and express to our Armed Forces the appreciation and support of the American people. Each package contains donated product valued at $75-100 and costs the organization $15 to assemble and ship. For safety and security, assembling of packages occurs at the Army National Guard armory in Van Nuys, California. Since its inception in 2003, Operation Gratitude volunteers have shipped more than 815,000 packages to American Military members and their children.

Governor Quinn Signs Laws to Honor Vets and Fallen Heroes PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Nafia Khan   
Monday, 13 August 2012 13:16

SPRINGFIELD – August 12, 2012. To celebrate “Veterans Day at the State Fair”, Governor Pat Quinn today signed a package of new laws designed to honor our veterans and fallen heroes, including a measure to hire more veterans as Conservation Police. Today’s action is the latest by Governor Quinn to improve services for veterans in Illinois.

“Supporting Illinois veterans is our sacred mission,” Governor Quinn said. “These new laws enable us to hire more veterans, provide veterans with better medical and mental health treatment, and better honor the families of fallen heroes with special license plates.”

Under House Bill 4983 – sponsored by Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago) and Sen. Tony Muñoz (D-Chicago) – the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) would be able to hire more veterans as Conservation Police through a waiver of their college degree requirement. Currently, applicants must have a four-year college degree or a two-year degree plus three years in a police force. Under this new law, any service member who was honorably discharged may have that requirement waived.

The IDNR Conservation Police enforce fishing and wildlife laws, patrol Illinois waterways and state parks, and hunt down violators of the state’s poaching and endangered species laws. The starting salary is $43,956. While the college requirement is waived under this new law, which goes into effect immediately, applicants must still meet other requirements, such as a 300-yard swimming test. There are currently 136 Conservation Police officers and the IDNR hopes to hire more in coming months. All 15 cadets currently in training are veterans.

“Our Conservation Police face poachers, intoxicated boaters and criminals every day. They need to be tough and smart,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller. “Anyone who has been honorably discharged after serving in a hot spot such as Iraq is exactly the kind of person we need on the front-lines here.”

Governor Quinn also signed House Bill 5006 – sponsored by Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago) and Sen. Mike Jacobs (D-Moline) – to double the number of days allotted for military service-related hospital visits by certain state employees from two days annually to four days, and ensures that these days won’t count as sick days. Proposed by Secretary of State Jesse White and backed by the VFW, the bill passed both chambers unanimously and takes effect immediately.

Governor Quinn also signed House Bill 4926, sponsored by Rep. Michael Connelly (R-Naperville) and Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), to help veterans who incur post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health challenges. The new law – effective immediately – improves the functioning of the courts by increasing access to treatment records of veterans in the criminal justice system, and bolstering the role of caseworkers and “peer recovery coaches.” An initiative of Mental Health America of Illinois (MHAI), the new law identifies veterans who have been charged with crimes and may have substance abuse or mental health problems, and makes sure their treatment is part of any adjudication

“We greatly appreciate the support of Governor Quinn for this legislation,” said Carol Gall, MHAI Executive Director. “This will reduce recidivism and save taxpayers money.” For a century, MHAI has been advocating for persons with mental and emotional disorders.

Also signed today was House Bill 4982 - sponsored by Rep. Patrick Verschoore (D-Rock Island) and Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Cicero) - to honor such fallen heroes as firefighters and police officers who die in the line of duty by expanding the number of family members eligible for special license plates. Currently, only surviving spouses are entitled to the plates. The new law – proposed by Secretary of State White – allows parents and other relatives of the fallen hero to display the special plates. The bill takes effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

Improving life for veterans has long been a priority for Governor Quinn, who has called for the hiring of 100,000 veterans by 2020. Veterans and their families have free admission to the State Fair and other activities today. Earlier this week, the governor announced the Illinois Hiring Heroes Consortium designed to help veterans find employment. In 2011, Governor Quinn launched the Welcome Home Heroes program to promote homeownership for Illinois Veterans, active military personnel, reservists and Illinois National Guard members. As Lieutenant Governor, Quinn championed the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund Act, which established a fund to provide grants helping service members and their families with the costs of food, housing, utilities, medical services and other expenses they struggle to afford because a wage-earner has temporarily left civilian employment to be placed on active military duty.


Governor Quinn Signs Law to Honor Veterans with Special License Plates PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Erin Wilson   
Friday, 10 August 2012 13:53

JOLIET, Ill.– August 10, 2012. In addition to several other laws, Governor Pat Quinn today signed a new law at a VFW post in Joliet to honor partially disabled veterans with special vehicle license plates. House Bill 1151 allows veterans who may not qualify for disabled license plates to still be honored for their sacrifice with a special license plate. Today's action is the latest by Governor Quinn to support veterans across Illinois.

"Our veterans who have sacrificed so much for the good of this country deserve honor and thanks," Governor Quinn said. “This new license plate will remind us of our modern-day heroes each time we see them on the road.”

Sponsored by Rep. Lawrence Walsh, Jr. (D-Joliet) and Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Cicero), House Bill 1151 provides that the new license plate will be issued at no cost to eligible veterans, similar to the Illinois Disabled Veteran License Plate but without the international symbol of access. The new license plate honors veterans whose disability - such as neurological disorders, hearing loss or post-traumatic stress disorder - may not entitle them to disabled parking privileges. An initiative of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, the bill is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“We cannot thank our veterans enough,” Rep. Walsh said. “The next time I see a car with a Disabled Veteran license plate, I plan to give a thumbs-up to the driver to show my appreciation.”

Governor Quinn is a long-time champion of veterans’ affairs. As State Treasurer, he launched Operation Homefront to inform National Guard members and reservists of their rights under the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act. As Lieutenant Governor, his Illinois Military Family Relief Act to aid the spouses and children of those called to active duty became a model for other states. As Governor, Quinn has visited Illinois troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Germany, and has called for the hiring of 100,000 veterans in Illinois by 2020.

The law is effective Jan. 1.

While at the VFW Post, the Governor also signed four bills sponsored by area lawmaker Rep. Emily McAsey (D-Lockport): House Bill 4636, House Bill 4662, House Bill 4663 and House Bill 5650.


Recruiting and Retention Command Holds Award Ceremony PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Illinois National Guard PAO   
Friday, 10 August 2012 08:23

SPRINGFIELD, IL (08/09/2012)(readMedia)-- Illinois Army National Guard recruiters from across the state with the Recruiting and Retention Command in Springfield gathered at the Illinois Military Academy at Camp Lincoln in Springfield for an awards ceremony Aug. 8.

"I wish I could give an award to everyone," said Lt. Col. Mark Alessia of Sherman, Recruiting and Retention Commander. "I appreciate everything you guys are doing."

Among the awards were the top Recruiter of the Year, which went to Staff Sgt. Daniel Neville of Plainfield with 41 enlistments for 2012 and the Rookie of the Year, which went to Sgt. 1st Class Craig Watkins of Sciota with 30 enlistments for 2012.

Other awards include:

U Can, I Did Club, which was awarded to:

• Neville

• Watkins

• Sgt. Mark Maroon of Aurora

Paul McDade Award, which was awarded to:

• Watkins

• Maroon

• Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Cerminn of Columbia

• Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Rose of Oquawka

• Staff Sgt. Lawrence Orsborn of Loves Park

• Sgt. 1st Class Levi Miller of Gays

• Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Krajefska of Salem

• Sgt. 1st Class Chad McDannald of Warrenville

• Sgt. 1st Class Carl Langs of Highland Park

• Staff Sgt. Justin Gullion of Northbrook

Commanders Top 10, which was awarded to:

• Rose with 20 enlistments

• Sgt. David Klotz of Blandinsville with 20 enlistments

• Cerminn with 21 enlistments

• Sgt. Jason Lichauer of Bloomington with 21 enlistments

• Sgt. Giuseppe Ferrioli of Belvidere with 22 enlistments

• Staff Sgt. Joseph Dixon of McLean with 22 enlistments

• Sgt. 1st Class Samer Elguindy of Elgin with 23 enlistments

• Watkins with 30 enlistments

• Maroon with 34 enlistments

• Neville with 41 enlistments

Botswana Defense Force and Illinois National Guard Combine Efforts on Road Improvement and Pond Recovery PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Story by Sgt. James D. Sims, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment   
Friday, 10 August 2012 08:18

MKANKAKE VILLAGE, THE REPUBLIC OF BOTSWANA (08/09/2012)(readMedia)-- The Illinois Army National Guard's 631st Engineer Support Company from Lawrenceville, Ill., is assisting the Botswana Defense Force (BDF) engineers with a road improvement and pond restoration project near Mkankake Village in the Republic of Botswana, as part of Southern Accord 2012 (SA 12).

SA 12 is an annual combined, joint exercise which brings together U.S. military personnel with counterparts from the BDF to conduct humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations, peacekeeping operations and aeromedical evacuation to enhance military capabilities and interoperability.

"This is a five and a half mile stretch of road that leads to Mkankake Range," said 1st Lt. Jera Muder of Riverton, Ill., the platoon leader for the road improvement project with the 631st. "Currently it is unserviceable and our goal is to complete as much of this project as we can before we have to go back to Illinois."

The road is a natural conduit for rainwater as it flows from high ground and washes out sections of road, rendering it impassable.

"The part of the road we are currently working on has too much sand, so we are removing enough of it to get to a more solid surface," said Muder. "We will then bring in water trucks to wet the surface, rip it up, grade the surface and flatten it out. This will create a hard surface we can then lay gravel on."

The 631st will help to complete as much of the road as they can during their time in Botswana. After the engineers leave, the BDF will conclude the project.

"It has been very good working with the Americans," said Sgt. Lebuse Kobe, a roads technician with the BDF engineers. "We have learned as much from them as we have given them information on how we do our roads. The locals are happy because this is also a road that leads to their village and gives them a better road for travelling."

Concurrent to the road project is a pond restoration near the village, which is used to water livestock and other small agricultural needs.

"This is a small pond that would essentially dry up halfway through the dry season and the livestock depend on it for water," said Sgt. 1st Class John Jones, from Bloomington, Ind., with the 631st. "The elders of the village asked the BDF to expand and deepen the pond so it would last longer."

"We will widen the front of the pond by 20 to 25 meters and increase the depth on the back side by 10 to 15 feet," said Sgt. Galen Dellinger, a heavy equipment operator with the 631st, from Lawrenceville, Ill., "tripling the size of the existing pond."

As the road improvement team passes the pond restoration site, both teams will connect the drainage ditches from the road to the pond so there is more supply to keep the pond from drying up too early.

Although the team from Illinois will have to leave prior to the completion of the project, they are confident the BDF will see it through to completion, said Muder.

Photo 2: Photo by Sgt. James Sims, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Staff Sgt. David Abell of Sumner, Ill. with the 631st Engineer Support Company from Lawrenceville, Ill., conducts a bridge reconnaissance and classification class for the Botswana Defense Force (BDF) and U.S. Army engineers. The class came during a break from the road and pond reconstruction projects the engineers have been working on near Mkankake Range, as part of Southern Accord 2012. SA 12 is an annual combined, joint exercise which brings together U.S. military personnel with their counterparts from the BDF, to conduct humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations, peacekeeping operations and aeromedical evacuation to enhance military capabilities and interoperability.

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