Military & Veterans News
Southern Illinois National Guard Soldier Remembered PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by readMedia   
Monday, 11 April 2011 15:18

Memorial Recognizes Illinois National Guard Soldier Killed in Afghanistan; Story by Sgt. Charlie Helmholt, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

AVISTON, IL (04/11/2011)(readMedia)-- Amidst the Midwest's many country roads and corn fields, there is a very unique place that sits just outside of the southern Illinois town of Aviston. There, tucked away seemingly in the middle of nowhere, is the aptly named Hidden Lake Winery.

The winery, which opened in 2005, has played host to many ceremonies that exploit the establishments natural beauty, its elegance and charm. Recently this business sent a message to local military and civilians that they are all about red, white and blue.

April 8 and running three days through April 10, winery owner Dale Holbrook and general manager Missy Shirley decided to host a Military Appreciation Weekend and a dedication service to pay homage to Illinois' fallen warriors.

The event centered around Saturday's ceremony when a memorial to honor those veterans who have given their lives was unveiled. A tribute wall adorned with plaques, engraved with the various names and ranks of the fallen.

In the corner of the wall lies the memorials' main attraction, a life-size statue sculpted by Holbrook in the image of Clinton County's own Staff Sgt. Joshua Melton of Carlyle.

"I want this to honor Josh as both a dedicated Soldier and a man who loved his life, his family and his friends," said Holbrook.

Many people in Clinton County remember the tragic death of Melton, an Illinois Army National Guard Soldier from 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment in Marion. Melton died after an improvised explosive device detonated in Kandahar, Afghanistan in June 2009.

"Everyone around here knew him. He would've helped anybody and he didn't have one enemy," said Richie G. Holtgrave, Melton's cousin.

Speakers at the event on April 9 included Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart of Belleville, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, State Senator Kyle McCarter, Holbrook and many family and friends of Illinois servicemembers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

"Josh Melton was a true representative of Clinton County, and of the people of Clinton County. He was a patriot, he was a volunteer," said Enyart.

Similar stories abounded throughout the day from those closest to the veterans.

One in every 25 men in the United States lost their life 150 years ago in the Civil War. Contrast that to today when only one in 1,000 men bear the brunt of the ongoing wars, said Enyart.

This is not only telling as to how brave these men and women of the armed forces are, but how much they deserve not to be forgotten.

This ceremony was about remembering those that have died serving their country. Grief and emotion were apparent as a friend or family member spoke about their Soldier who perished. However, when the speaker finished memorializing, many times they smiled and seemed much happier just to have been able to share with others a little about their hero.

There were more than 650 guests who attended April 9 and April 10 to honor the men and women in uniform.

Other guests in attendance included the Illinois Patriot Guard who brought with them their Fallen Heroes Traveling Memorial Wall, Miss Illinois Teen USA Paige Higgerson, the St. Louis Rams cheerleaders, Poison cover band Posin, representatives from both the American Legion and the VFW, and musical performers Kerry Steinmann and Stephen Koritta.

Koritta wrote and performed a song during Saturday's ceremony to mark the occasion entitled "Central Standard Time."

Although Melton's life was taken, his memory will now stand in stone for countless years, and his deeds will surely serve to inspire those who hear his story.

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Illinois National Guard Blackhawk Flight Takes Vietnam Vets Back in Time PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by readMedia   
Monday, 11 April 2011 12:54

LOVES PARK, IL (04/04/2011)(readMedia)-- Several Loves Park VFW members had a chance to ride in an Illinois Army National Guard Blackhawk April 2. The event's timing held special significance, as the Department of Defense (DoD) has recognized this year as the 50-year anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War.

"This felt pretty familiar," said Jim Puckett of Loves Park, a member of the Loves Park VFW and former Marine Sgt. who served in Da Nang province, Vietnam, as a member of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. Puckett said he spent his fair share of time in a helicopter.

"I was only eighteen at the time," he said. "It was an eye-opening experience."

Puckett, who is also the Loves Park police chief, served as a squad radio operator in the Infantry during Vietnam.

"It was scary, but I remember it being a beautiful country," he said.

Retired Army Spc. Marvin Matthees of Loves Park shared Puckett's feelings.

"It was a scary time; there were a lot of bad aspects," he said.

Matthees, who served as a crew chief and door gunner on a UH1D helicopter with the 336th Assault Helicopter Company, was responsible for putting Soldiers on the ground, making supply runs and performing maintenance on the aircraft.

"We were pretty busy," he said. "We got mortared a lot."

Matthees said his first night in Saigon was a memorable one.

"We had just laid down in our bunks when we got hit by a mortar attack," he recalled. "It was one heck of a wakeup call."

Matthees said he was amazed at how far the military's equipment had come.

"Things are a lot more advanced now," he said. "I think the training is a little more extensive too."

There have been other positive changes, Puckett said.

"Definitely being able to stay in touch more with loved ones was a major change," he said.

Matthees agreed.

"I was married right before I left and my daughter was born while I was overseas," he said.

While Matthees said it was very hard for him, his wife and daughter made it all worthwhile.

"Pamela stuck with me through the whole thing," he said.

Puckett said the day's activities reminded him of how much today's military men and women sacrifice, and how proud he is of them.

"My hat's off to them," he said. "They're doing a fantastic job. We support them 100 percent."

In fact, Puckett was recognized by the DoD as a Patriotic Employer for his treatment of National Guard Soldiers within his department.

"In our department right now we have a guy getting ready to go over," he said. "Nothing has changed; these guys are the ones in harm's way. I think the Guard is doing a great job. How can you not support your troops, when they're the ones keeping us free?"

Matthees agreed and said "We all go do our duty. I was proud to serve."

Puckett said he had nothing but good things to say about his time in service.

"I would have no problem going back in right now," he said. "I loved doing what I did and serving my country."

The flight also included several teachers from the area who will take their experiences back to the classroom, sharing the importance of military history with their students.

Photo 1/ Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Rob Fafoglia, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/

Several members of the Loves Park VFW wait to receive their pre-flight briefing before an orientation flight April 2. Several of the VFW's members are veterans of the Vietnam War. The Department of Defense is recognizing 2011 as the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War, as 1961 marks the year the first full units were deployed to Vietnam.

Photo 2/ Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Rob Fafoglia, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Members of the Loves Park VFW receive a pre-flight briefing before their orientation flight on April 2. Several members of the VFW are veterans of the Vietnam War. The Department of Defense is recognizing 2011 as the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War, as 1961 marks the year the first full units were deployed there.

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Illinois Guard Dominates at All-Army Marksmanship Competition PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Sgt. Adam Fischman   
Thursday, 31 March 2011 07:32

FORT BENNING, GA. (03/30/2011)(readMedia)-- Tension split the early morning fog as Soldiers' voices and crunching footsteps in the darkness guided the way to the All-Army Small Arms and Long Range (Sniper) Championships, March 20 to 27 at Fort Benning, Ga.

The Illinois National Guard Competitive Marksmanship Team used its training, discipline and drive to place third among all 48 teams with one Soldier taking first-place overall in the small arms event and one Soldier winning first-place in both sniper events with the highest aggregate score.

"There is no other Army event that brings together so many military occupational specialties, branches and components into one place," said Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Hardy, the senior enlisted advisor of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. "The skills you have demonstrated here during this competition are the skills you will take back to your units to raise the Army's standards in marksmanship and battlefield readiness."

The Illinois National Guard Competitive Marksmanship Team includes five Soldiers, who at their first championship showed Illinois has some of the best marksman in the military. The "A" team consisted of Warrant Officer Candidate Kyle Gleason of Lincoln, team captain and assigned to Marseilles Training Site Detachment in Marseilles; Sgt. 1st Class David Perdew of Astoria, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 44th Chemical Battalion in Macomb; Staff Sgt. Tracy Mix of Marseilles, Company A, 33rd Brigade Support Troop Battalion; Staff Sgt. Bill Thorpe of Millstadt, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion,130th Infantry Battalion in Marion and Sgt. Terry Pody, team coach of Machesney Park, Marseilles Training Site Detachment.

It was the largest turnout in 18 years with more than 300 Soldiers, Airmen and cadets taking part in eight days of competitive shooting.

Soldiers from across the country were invited to perform in two back-to-back championships. The first is the six-day small-arms championship of 12 individual and eight team matches. The second tournament is the two-day, long-range (sniper) championship, governed by two separate matches shot from 800, 900 and 1,000 yards with M-24 sniper rifles.

"For a competitive marksman, consistently applying the fundamentals and achieving success on the range translates to achieving success in anything you do whether on the battlefield or other walks of life," said Hardy. "The positive pressure of this competition forces a Soldier to correctly apply the fundamentals in a way that simple qualification cannot. The critical importance of basic and advanced marksmanship and the value of training Soldiers so they can deliver accurate and effective fire cannot be understated. It makes a significant impact in raising the Army's overall combat readiness."

Prior to the All-Army championships, the Illinois National Guard Competitive Marksmanship team started with a five-day training session in Quincy on a 500-yard known-distance range followed by an additional three-day train-up in Tullahoma, Tenn., with 64 other National Guard Soldiers from various states.

"These are some of the best guys I've ever worked with," said Pody. "It is a privilege to coach Soldiers that set the standard for leadership and marksmanship wherever we go. They all devote personal time and resources into this team and their level of dedication and desire to win is unmatched."

Each tournament offers a series of scenarios that are not found in other military marksmanship events. Combined arms lanes required competitors to crawl in sand under barbed wire and fire upon a variety of different targets while running. Each event is choreographed to present a stress level paralleled to a true combat scenario.

Rather than paper targets simulating various distances, known-distance range scenarios are used to provide the actual distance between shooters and targets. Shooters must adapt to factors that come into play at actual distances such as wind fluctuation and change in bullet trajectory.

Multi-gun stages test shooters' ability to transition between rifle and pistol against various target sizes. While on the move, shooters switch from weapon to weapon, reloading and changing positions as they engage targets.

Some of the more difficult matches consist of a one-and-a-half and a two-mile run in full combat gear prior to target engagements. Physical conditioning and accurate marksmanship fundamentals are a challenging mixture, which simulate real-life scenarios.

"Pure combat stress is the purpose of these scenarios," said Gleason. "You have to run two miles in all your gear, rush to get on the firing line, then you need to control your entire body to get accurate shots. They want to test us under extreme physical stress, simulating firing in combat. They implement the time limit and combat gear to see how we do against all the outside factors of shooting well."

The Illinois team placed in the top 10 in all eight team matches. Perdew was the first first-time shooter, Perdew, to ever win the All-Army Small Arms and All-Army Sniper event in the same year. Perdew was awarded a Secretary of the Army M-1 service rifle for winning the first-place overall novice individual championship. He later swept the Long Range (Sniper) Championship by winning first-place in both events with the highest average score, for this he was awarded a customized AR-10 assault rifle. Additional prizes, coins and awards were distributed among the team for excellence in the tournament, placing third amongst all 48 teams in the highly sought after All-Army Team Aggregate Championship Match.

"This has all been a little bit of a surprise and it is still sinking in," said Perdew. "I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to represent my state and consider it an honor to be here."

Many Soldiers train all year to prepare for the All-Army Competition. Prior to each competition, competitors are required to complete mandatory small-arms training.

"The All-Army Marksmanship Championships are essential, for and geared to, providing combat readiness," said noncommissioned officer in-charge of the match Sgt. 1st Class Richard Merrill, of Nashville, Mich., U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. "It provides Soldiers throughout the Army the chance to enter a competition setting where they can learn more about precision marksmanship, shoot from longer distances thanthey normally would, take that knowledge back to their units providing better-trained Soldiers for a better-trained military."

Every inch of measurement and second in time distinguishes a win from a loss amid the level of competitiveness and skill at the All-Army matches. With every site picture, breath and trigger squeeze, performance during those crucial moments creates individual and team champions.

"We certainly have openings for new shooters and we want as many Soldiers as possible to come down to The Adjutant General match," said Pody. "None of America's enemies have ever been killed by a baseball, football, basketball or golf ball. That will always be the job of a skilled marksman."

Story by Army Sgt. Adam Fischman, Illinois National Guard Joint Force Headquarters

Grassley, Feinstein Seek Testimony from Military on Synthetic Drug Use PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Sen Chuck Grassley   
Thursday, 31 March 2011 07:08

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), leaders of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, today asked the Defense Department to provide testimony at an upcoming hearing on synthetic drugs known as “K2” or “Spice,” among other names.

The drugs are marketed as harmless, when in fact they are dangerous, and the deceptive marketing and easy availability have made them attractive to young consumers, including members of the military. Recent reports indicate increased disciplinary action by the Defense Department among members of the armed forces due to synthetic drug use.  The senators asked the Defense Department to provide written testimony for a hearing of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control on April 6, 2011, titled, “The Dangers of Synthetic Cannabinoids and Stimulants.”

Earlier this month, Grassley, Feinstein and fellow senators introduced legislation to ban the chemicals used to make K2.  The legislation is called the Dangerous Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2011 and the David Mitchell Rozga Act, S. 605, named for the 18-year-old Iowan who took his own life soon after using K2 purchased from his local shopping mall. The father of David Rozga, Michael Rozga, will testify at the upcoming hearing.

Grassley is Co-chairman and Feinstein is Chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.  Both senators serve on the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the K2 legislation.  Grassley is ranking member of the committee.

The text of the Grassley-Feinstein letter to the Defense secretary is available here.


Braley Demands Straightforward Answer on Cost of Libyan Conflict PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Alexandra Krasov   
Monday, 28 March 2011 08:08
Washington, DC March 25, 2011 - Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement after White House spokesperson Jay Carney was asked about Rep. Braley’s letter calling for an accounting of the Libyan conflict. According to USA Today, Carney replied to reporters, “there are contingency funds…for this kind of thing.” Today Rep. Braley said:

“Yesterday I asked for accountability on the question of how much this conflict is costing us, and I have yet to see a clear response from the White House. The fact that funds for contingency military operations exist doesn’t answer the question of how much we’re spending, and will continue to spend, in Libya. I’m not the only one asking these questions – the American people are demanding answers too. And the President must give Congress and all taxpayers an accurate answer.”

Yesterday, Rep. Braley sent a letter to President Obama asking for a full accounting of the Libyan conflict and the costs to taxpayers. Speaker Boehner sent a similar letter to the President. Rep. Braley has previously called for a full accounting of the human and financial costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A copy of Rep. Braley’s letter is available here:

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