Military & Veterans News
Lt. Governor Simon to honor Illinois’ Fallen Heroes PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Justin Stofferahn   
Thursday, 13 September 2012 08:04

Will open ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ exhibit on anniversary of September 11

CENTRALIA – September 11, 2012. On the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will pay tribute to Illinois military service members that have been killed since the start of the Global War on Terror.

Simon will speak at the opening ceremonies for the “Portrait of a Soldier” exhibit at 6 p.m. tonight at Kaskaskia College. The traveling memorial will be on display at the college until September 24 and features hand-sketched portraits of nearly 300 fallen service members from Illinois.

“On this anniversary we remember those we lost as a result of the attacks on September 11, and the brave military heroes who have defended our country since,” Simon said. “The 'Portrait of a Soldier' exhibit honors and commemorates the young men and women that gave the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our freedom.”

Among the fallen service members from the Kaskaskia College-area included in the exhibit is Marine Lance Cpl. Torrey Stoffel-Gray of Patoka. Stoffel-Gray was 19 years old and on his second tour of duty when he was killed by hostile fire in Iraq on April 11, 2004. Stoffel-Gray was 17 years old when he joined the Marines and was credited with saving the life of friend Aaron Gordon of San Diego, Calif., during the invasion of Iraq.

Also included in the exhibit is Army Spc. Casey Hills of Salem. Hills died in Iraq on June 24, 2009 at the age of 23 when the vehicle he was in rolled over after coming under attack. Hills was part of a mission providing security for convoys driving into Iraq and volunteered for the mission so a fellow soldier could attend a naturalization ceremony to become an American citizen.

Several other service members from the Kaskaskia College District are featured in the “Portrait of a Soldier” exhibit and include Marine Staff Sgt. Jordan Emrick of Hoyleton; Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas B. Kleiboeker of Odin; Army Sgt. Matthew Straughter of St. Charles, Missouri whose parents were Kaskaskia students; Marine Lance Cpl. Jonathan Kyle Price of Woodlawn; and Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Melton of Germantown.

“We at Kaskaskia College are honored to be paying tribute to the 288 fallen heroes from Illinois in the Global War on Terror since September 11, 2001. We shall never forget these men and women who served this nation so proudly in preserving the freedoms we all enjoy as Americans,” said Kaskaskia College President Dr. Jim Underwood. “We are very proud to have on display the ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ exhibit in honor and memory of the fallen heroes from Illinois.  It is a pleasure to have Lt. Governor Sheila Simon present to speak and represent the state of Illinois at this very special occasion.  We also welcome family members of these fallen heroes and the public to this proud event.”

These service members will also be recognized by the “Veteran’s Tribute” that Kaskaskia College is constructing on campus to recognize past, present and future veterans from the college’s district. The memorial is completely funded by private donations and will feature a six-foot-tall eagle sculpture, two walls with the names and branches of area veterans, and the seals of all five branches of service.

Seen by thousands of people at more than 100 venues across the state since 2005, “Portrait of a Soldier” is a tribute to the nearly 300 men and women from Illinois killed in the line of duty since 2001. Artist Cameron Schilling drew the first portrait in 2004, when he sketched Army Spc. Charles Neeley, a 19-year old Mattoon resident who died in Tikrit, Iraq, and presented the sketch to Neeley’s parents. Months later, while a student at Eastern Illinois University, Schilling committed to draw a portrait of every Illinois service member.

Governor Quinn today directed state buildings to fly their flags at half-staff today and also called on Illinois residents to take time to thank a veteran, help a military family or salute a Gold Star family. For more information on the “Portrait of a Soldier” exhibit and ways to help veterans and military families, visit


U.S. Veteran Charities: Beyond Lip Service PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Monday, 10 September 2012 14:05
SEAL Team 6 Author Discusses Value of Legit Nonprofits

With the war in Afghanistan set to end in 2014, and the Iraq war having ended two years ago, charities that help veterans and their families may be busier than ever – but without the public awareness generated by an ongoing conflict.

Support for the war effort in Afghanistan is on par with the unpopular Vietnam War during the early 1970s, according to a recent Associated Press-GfK poll; only 27 percent of Americans support the effort in Afghanistan. A fundamental difference between then and now, however, is Americans’ nearly unanimous support of U.S. troops, says J. L. Narmi, author of SEAL Team 6, bin Laden and Beyond (

“The vitriol expressed toward our Vietnam veterans by many was disgusting, but I think we learned from that injustice, and most Americans think the troops deserve much more support than they’re getting,” says Narmi, who comes from a military family. All proceeds from his book sales will go to support veterans’ charities.

“The problem is that funding, whether it’s through government or private charities, doesn’t match the expressed support,” he says. “And I worry that will only get worse as these soldiers move out of the public eye and try to take up peace-time lives.”

Narmi cites some good resources for Americans looking for quality charities that support the troops:

• The Wounded Warrior Project ( With advances in protective gear and life-saving medical technology, fewer troops are coming home in coffins than in previous wars, but more are coming back with lifelong injury. This charity seeks to foster a generation of well-adjusted wounded service members, and to raise public awareness about their needs and how fellow military men and women can help each other.

• The Navy SEAL Foundation ( As detailed in Narmi’s novel, SEALs are among the most physically and mentally talented individuals in the world. But they, along with their families, endure enormous stressors, many of which are never discussed due to the nature of their duties. This charity supports these elite warriors and their families.

• Charity Navigator ( Whether or not you think you know about the legitimacy of a charitable organization, it doesn’t hurt to take a few minutes to verify an organization’s status. This site is widely recognized by investigative reporters to be a reliable resource in reporting a nonprofit’s activity. The above two groups, in which Narmi has donated money, have been verified via Charity Navigator.

• Still not sure? … Skepticism is understandable. It seems the more we hear or read about charities, the more we learn that we shouldn’t simply take their word for how donations will be spent. Media coverage spotlights those outlier groups that are clearly fraudulent; however, most charitable organizations are absolutely streamlined, with workers donating their time or receiving a minimal wage. It has never been easier to verify a charity’s reputation. Additionally, for those with the time and willingness, individuals may create their own nonprofit. Narmi is working to set up his own, called Hire the Vets!

“If everyone who said they support the troops gave just a modest amount to help a veteran that has risked his or her life for our freedom, we would come across far fewer tragedies on the news about vet-related joblessness, homelessness and suicide,” he says.

About J. L. Narmi

J. L. Narmi comes from family with deep roots in the military; his brother, retired Rear Admiral Ronald E. Narmi, worked closely with SEAL teams throughout his career. Narmi’s fascination with the Navy SEALs resulted in “”SEAL Team 6, bin Laden and Beyond,” which was completed just eight days before the real-life mission that resulted in bin Laden’s death. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and earned his MBA from Creighton University. Narmi is a graduate of the Securities Industry Institute of the Wharton School – University of Pennsylvania.

Illinois National Guard Helicopter, Crew Return from Southwest Border PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Illinois National Guard PAO   
Monday, 10 September 2012 13:49

DECATUR, IL (09/10/2012)(readMedia)-- WHO:

• The Illinois National Guard's Detachment 1, Company C, 1st Battalion, 376th Aviation Regiment in Decatur.


• One Illinois National Guard OH-58 Kiowa helicopter and one pilot will return to the Illinois National Guard's Aviation Support Facility after completing a three-month deployment to the U.S. Southwest Border in support of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security performing border security operations. A total of four Soldiers supported the mission. The other three Soldiers have already arrived home.


• Sept. 10 at 2 p.m.

• Illinois National Guard Aviation Support Facility, 660 S. Airport Rd, Decatur, Ill.


• Dec. 15, 2011 the Secretary of Defense approved the continued use of the National Guard to support the Department of Homeland Security's effort to secure the U.S. southwest border.

• The Southwest Border extends from San Diego, Calif., to Brownsville, Texas, and is approximately 2,000 miles.

• In most areas, the Southwest Border is located in remote and sparsely populated areas of vast desert and rugged mountain terrain.

• The Southwest Border region is defined as the areas up to 150 miles north of the United States-Mexican border.



Governor Quinn Honors Illinois Silver Star Recipient PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Sunday, 09 September 2012 13:24

Ceremony Highlights Heroism and Bravery of Illinois Servicemembers

TROY – September 8, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today joined Gold Star families and local leaders at a ceremony honoring Senior Airman Bradley Smith with the Silver Star, the third-highest military decoration that can be awarded to any branch of the United States Military. The posthumous award is in recognition of Smith’s heroic acts to protect other airmen following an attack in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan on January 3, 2010.

“Airman Smith made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country and the debt we owe him can never be repaid,” Governor Quinn said. “This award is a testament to his bravery and his loyalty to his unit and his nation. His memory shall live on in our hearts and in every measure of support we can give to those who have borne the battle.”

According to the Air Force, Smith was on patrol in a village in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan when his unit came under attack. When another part of his team triggered an IED (improvised explosive device), Smith led the wounded airmen to safety. After rejoining the fight, Smith volunteered to recover the body of one of the fallen soldiers, which he did successfully with the assistance of Army Medic Brian Bowman. After they reached the casualty collection point, a second IED exploded, killing both Smith and Bowman.

Today’s ceremony will be held at the beginning of the third annual Bradley Smith Memorial/Scholarship 5k run established in his memory by the Smith family, which has attracted more than 800 participants and provided more than $20,000 in scholarships to students of Triad High School in Troy and to the children of active duty and retired servicemembers. The Silver Star Medal is being delivered to Smith’s family by members of the 10th Air Support Operations Squadron, who also fought bravely alongside Smith that day. The airmen, some of whom were gravely injured in the attack, made a week-long march on foot from Fort Riley, Kansas to Troy.

Governor Quinn is encouraging Illinois residents to honor the servicemen and servicewomen who have lost their lives fighting for democracy by supporting programs that benefit Gold Star Families, including the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund, Operation Hero Miles, and Operation Support Our Troops. For more information about programs for our Veterans, visit or call the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs at 217-782-6641 or 312-814-2460.

Iowa ‘Red Bulls’ recognized for deployment success, sacrifice PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Sgt. Damon Salzer   
Sunday, 09 September 2012 13:12

Army Col. Benjamin J. Corell, the former commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division "Red Bulls" of the Iowa Army National Guard, addresses congressional, military and industry leaders after accepting the 2012 Citizen Patriot Unit Award during a ceremony at Fort Myer, Va., Sept. 5, 2012. The Iowa "Red Bulls" were recognized for their successful deployment and sacrifice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from November 2010 to July 2011 in Afghanistan.

ARLINGTON, Va. – The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th “Red Bull” Infantry Division of the Iowa Army National Guard was awarded the Citizen Patriot Award for its exemplary service while deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Accepting the award on behalf of the brigade during a ceremony at Fort Myer, Va., was Army Col. Benjamin J. Corell, the commander of the unit during its deployment from November 2010 to July 2011.

The brigade’s outstanding contribution to the security and defense posture of the United States during their deployment set them apart from other applicants, but so did the emotional aspect of losing four soldiers.

“We had twelve nominations from all of the services – Army, Navy Marines, and the Air Force – and what we looked for were units that made the greatest contribution to national security,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth Bouldin, the president of the Reserve Forces Policy Board Fellows Society, the independent committee who selected the individual and unit Citizen Patriot awardees.

“Of all the nominations that we had, the thing that stood out was that these soldiers had been truthfully in harm’s way,” he said. “And all of the units had performed magnificently, but this unit had lost four of its soldiers.”

Corell said he was humbled to represent the thousands of soldiers who came together to perform a successful mission.

“I also realize that it takes a village to raise a child, and that means our employers and families back at home, the leadership of the Iowa National Guard, and the Nebraska National Guard – tonight I accept this on behalf of all of them,” he said.

Their deployment to Afghanistan was the one of the largest deployments of Iowa National Guard members since World War II, said Guard officials.

Guard officials said key accomplishments of the brigade were:

-- Increased capability of the local Afghan government to provide for the essential needs of the Afghan people resulting in 61 percent of the local Afghan population within the Task Force Red Bulls area of operations believing that their government was working to better their lives

--Led one of the largest air assault operations in Regional Command-East and cleared insurgent activity from 400 square miles of the Galuch Valley in Laghman province.

-- Conducted numerous direct and indirect fire missions to support coalition forces and suppress enemy insurgency.

-- Coordinated with local institutions and other multi-national agencies resulting in the increased credibility of Afghan provincial and district institutions.

“As in previous conflicts, the “Red Bulls” lived up to their history and Iowa’s citizen-soldier reputation as some of the finest and most dependable soldiers in the Army,” said Army Maj. Gen. Timothy Orr, the adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard.

In attendance to present the award to Corell and the brigade was Army Lt. Gen. William E. Ingram Jr., director of the Army National Guard.

“It is a tremendous honor to have the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Iowa Army National Guard recognized at the national level for their deployment excellence,” Ingram said.

“I could not be more proud of these superb soldiers and their families – for their successful deployment, their continued sacrifice, selfless service, and all the things we count on them, as Army guardsmen, to do every day, whether at home or oversees,” he said.

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