Military & Veterans News
Governor Quinn Announces Illinois Veterans Affairs Director Selected White House Champion of Change PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Katie Hickey   
Wednesday, 26 March 2014 09:58

Army Veteran Erica Borggren One of 10 Honored Nationwide

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today announced that Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) Director Erica Borggren has been named a Woman Veteran Champion of Change by the White House. Director Borggren’s recognition was for her leadership at IDVA in creating the Illinois Joining Forces public-private network to assist Illinois servicemembers, veterans and their families.

“Our Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs is doing excellent work for Illinois veterans and making a difference under Erica Borggren’s leadership,” Governor Quinn said. “Serving our heroes is one of my top priorities and that’s why we’ve made Illinois the most veteran-friendly state in America. Erica is a great example of what our veterans bring back to our communities when they leave the service.”

Director Borggren and top leaders in the Illinois Departments of Veterans Affairs and Military Affairs helped create Illinois Joining Forces (IJF), a public-private network of nearly 200 military and veteran-serving organizations working together to create a “no wrong door” system of support for Illinois servicemembers, veterans and their families. IJF member organizations work together online at, where they post services and events and refer veteran clients to each other. In addition, they continue their mission in person through IJF Working Groups, where they identify gaps in services and work to bridge those gaps.

The Women Veteran Champion of Change event will take place on Tuesday, March 25 at the White House. The event will be live streamed at, and will include panel discussions featuring all ten of the honorees.

With the Champions of Change ( program, the White House recognizes everyday Americans who are making positive changes in their communities. This Champions event will honor women veteran leaders who have contributed to our nation’s business, public and community service sectors.

Earlier in 2013, the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and its IJF network were recognized with the Abraham Lincoln Pillars of Excellence Award from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at a special White House Ceremony. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs (NASDVA) President Clyde Marsh presented the award to Borggren on Feb. 11 during the 2014 NASDVA Mid-Winter Conference.

The Abraham Lincoln Pillar of Excellence Award is a new program by the VA in partnership with NASDVA. The goal of the award is to recognize those state agencies that engage on the three VA Priority Goals – eliminating claims backlogs, ending veteran homelessness, and improving access to VA benefits and services. The award also highlights those states for Innovative Excellence for programs or services to veterans.

A Rhodes Scholar and West Point graduate, Borggren currently serves as the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. Besides IJF, under her leadership IDVA has also created a very successful Women Veterans Program and Veteran Entrepreneurship Program. Prior to her leadership in Governor Quinn’s administration, she served as a speechwriter for General David Petraeus in Iraq and as a company commander in Korea.

Governor Quinn has made commitment to veterans, servicemembers and their families a top priority throughout his career. He led the Illinois Warrior Assistance Program that helps veterans transition back to their daily lives and the Welcome Home Heroes program which helps support Illinois servicemembers seeking home ownership. As Lieutenant Governor, Quinn championed the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund Act, which established a fund to provide grants to families of Illinois National Guard members and Illinois residents serving in the U.S. Armed Forces Reserve components who are called to active duty. These grants help servicemembers and their families with the costs of food, housing, utilities and other expenses when the wage-earner has left civilian employment for active military duty. The fund has distributed more than $15.1 million to 29,625 Illinois military families to assist with the financial burden at home.

For more information about these and other programs for our veterans, visit or call the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs at (217) 782-6641 or (312) 814-2460.


Lt. Governor Simon announces comprehensive military study PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Ted Nelson   
Monday, 24 March 2014 07:23

Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies chosen to conduct economic impact analysis 

CHICAGO - March 21, 2014. Working in partnership with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today announced that the Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies (CGS) will conduct a comprehensive economic impact analysis of active military bases in Illinois.

“This study will provide the information we need to retain our military bases, promote our great facilities and encourage Illinois job growth,” said Simon, chair of the Interagency Military Base Support and Economic Development Committee. “I am pleased to partner with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Foundation to protect our military assets and grow our defense industry.”

NIU researchers will calculate the economic impact of the state’s military installations and provide the data needed for Congressional, state and business leaders to protect Illinois’ military economy at a time of federal defense spending cuts, forced reallocations and base realignment or closure. The final report is due in October.

“We’re excited to take the next step in this process. CGS has a diverse portfolio of economic research that we know will help us understand the economic impact of our defense installations and defense industry on our economy,” said Benjamin Brockschmidt, director of federal affairs with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

Founded in 1969, CGS is a public policy unit at Northern Illinois University that assembles interdisciplinary teams from its own professional staff and across the university to work with government at all levels, non-profit organizations, school districts, community colleges, park districts, library districts, land conservation districts, land developers, health care agencies, and utilities.

As chair of the IMBSEDC, Simon helps coordinate the state’s activities and communications relating to current and former military bases in Illinois. Simon is committed to protecting the state’s military operations, installations, and the families of those who selflessly serve our state and country. More information on the RFP can be found here.


Iowa Designated All-Vet State by U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Office of the Governor of the State of Iowa   
Friday, 21 March 2014 12:33

(DES MOINES) – Today, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad proudly announced Iowa is among three states to be designated an All-Vet State by Hiring Our Heroes, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

“We are honored to be named an All-Vet State and to be in such good company,” said Governor Branstad.  “This designation is a true testament to our unwavering support of veterans and their families.  We are dedicated to making Iowa a home for the nation’s returning heroes.”

The All-Vet States initiative was created to highlight the incredible opportunities, services, and support being offered by states to attract and hire transitioning service members and military spouses.  By showcasing the benefits and opportunities important to veterans and their families, a state can help influence a transitioning service member’s decision-making process in bringing their skill sets and revenue to that state.

Michigan and Tennessee also received the All-Vet State designation.

“Iowa has worked aggressively to be a top destination for our nation’s veterans and military spouses,” said Eric Eversole, executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program. “We are thrilled to work together through our All-Vet States initiative to help Iowa highlight the many economic and educational opportunities for the men and women who have served our country.”

This designation comes on the heels of Governor Branstad’s announcement of the creation of the Home Base Iowa program.  Home Base Iowa was founded to serve as a comprehensive source for job services and information about Iowa for veterans.  On March 13, Greene County was designated the state’s first Home Base Iowa Community.  To date, Iowa businesses have set a goal of filling 2,900 jobs in Iowa with veterans through the Home Base Iowa initiative.

“Many thanks to the individuals guiding the Hiring Our Heroes program and their hard work in assisting veterans and their families,” said Iowa Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds.  “We are so proud to be designated an All-Vet State and will continue to serve our nation’s brave servicemen and women to the fullest extent.”

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Illinois National Guard contractors to mobilize for Afghanistan PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Illinois National Guard PAO   
Monday, 17 March 2014 10:04

Four Soldiers mobilize March 19 as part of an embedded contracting team

SPRINGFIELD, IL (03/13/2014)(readMedia)-- A deployment ceremony is scheduled for four Soldiers who will deploy to Afghanistan as part of a specialized contracting team. The ceremony for the 1965th Contingency Contracting Team (CCT) based in Springfield, Ill., will be March 19 at 9 a.m. at Camp Lincoln, 1301 N. MacArthur Blvd. in Springfield, Ill.

The 1965th CCT is a group of highly-skilled contracting officers and contract specialists who execute and administer government funds through contracts to obtain goods, services and construction from commercial sources to support contingency operations. Their mission both domestic and abroad includes disaster relief, facilitating the defense against or recovery from nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological attack against the U.S along with response to situations where the president issues an emergency declaration or major disaster declaration. The 1965th CCT executes its mission both at home and abroad and is embarking to execute contracts in Afghanistan in 2014.

The contracting officers and contract specialists of the 1965th CCT will provide direct force support to the commanders in Afghanistan, enabling them to meet their missions through the procurement of goods and services; construction of facilities, roads and bridges; and services contracts. Through contracts with local national businesses contracting officers meet the requirements of force sustainment while also stimulating the Afghan economy. Contracting teams often are the Soldiers who work behind the scenes getting the commanders in the field the equipment, supplies or infrastructure they need to execute their mission.

The unit will train for a brief time at Fort Bliss, Texas, before deploying to Afghanistan. They are expected to be home by late December.

News media attending the event should arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the ceremony and are asked to contact Public Affairs at 217-761-3569 to gain access to Camp Lincoln.

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Accomplished leader, devoted father moves on PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Military & Veterans News
Written by Illinois National Guard PAO   
Monday, 17 March 2014 07:52

Sherman colonel retiring after 32 years of service; Story by U.S. Army Capt. Randy Dill, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

SPRINGFIELD, IL (03/12/2014)(readMedia)-- Col. Thomas J. Weiss, of Sherman, Ill., is moving to his next chapter of leadership after serving 32 years in the Illinois Army National Guard. Some people may think after more than three decades in the military Weiss would retire, but he is continuing his service in a different form.

"I am going back to teaching, maybe JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) and working my way up the ladder to be a principal," said Weiss.

Less than three weeks after leaving his full-time job with the Illinois National Guard, Weiss accepted a job teaching chemistry at Manual High School in Peoria, Ill. He is also working toward a degree in school administration from the University of Illinois.

Weiss' career in the Army is marked by multiple roles, goals and numerous achievements. Weiss enlisted in the Illinois Army National Guard in 1982 as a combat medic. He completed the Illinois Army National Guard's Officer Candidate School and commissioned as an infantry officer June 9, 1985. He also completed Army Ranger school in 1987 after being told it was impossible for a National Guard officer to complete one of the Army's toughest competitive training programs.

"[Weiss is] one of the hardest working staff officers in the Illinois Army National Guard," said Col. Michael Haerr of Eurkea, Ill., the director of logistics for the Illinois Army National Guard. "He was working to support junior leaders and Soldiers with the training opportunities they needed to be successful in support of our state and nation's defense. He never forgot who he worked for."

Weiss graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in chemistry and a master's degree in business administration. In addition, he earned a master's degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College. Weiss also gained his credentials as a certified high school teacher, a private pilot and a certified scuba diver.

"Colonel Weiss always wore many hats," said Brig. Gen. Johnny R. Miller of Tamms, Ill., Assistant Adjutant General – Army, Illinois National Guard. "He has been a go-to guy we can rely on to perform and deliver countless times in many different functions."

Prior to his military retirement, Weiss served concurrently as the commander of the 129th Regiment, Regional Training Institute at Camp Lincoln, Springfield, Ill., and as the deputy chief of staff for operations for the Illinois Army National Guard.

Within three years of holding these two roles, the Illinois Officer Candidate School program became one of the largest in the nation, while the individual Soldier qualification rate for Illinois rose from the 50th percentile to the 98th in the nation.

Weiss said one of his proudest accomplishments outside the Army was working with Sherman-Williamsville schools to establish the first youth wrestling program in the district. By working with the school superintendent, principal and school board he developed a co-op with Riverton providing the opportunity for the high school to also have a wrestling program.

Weiss compared his passion for wrestling with that of being a Soldier. His wife, Christie Weiss, went a little further to describe his drive.

"Tom is one of the most driven people I know," said Christie. "If he is passionate about something he will make it a success. This drive is who he is. Anything he touches and puts his mind to becomes a success."

Weiss and his wife have six children, two daughters and four sons. Despite his active military life, he made time to coach each of his children, while also getting involved with his sons' Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs.

When asked what advice he gives to the Army's future leaders going through officer training, the message is simple: "Don't quit."

Weiss recalls telling officer candidates the Army is counting on them to make it through training and become a future leader in the Illinois Army National Guard. He told candidates to stick it out and the training would change them forever.

Weiss' children echo the same mantra when asked what advice their father gave them while growing up.

"Throughout my life, my dad has shared words of advice and encouragement to help me through tough times," said Sara VanDerWal of Springfield, Ill., Weiss' second daughter. "These include: 'Weiss' don't quit,' 'you can't live your life in fear,' 'sprint to the finish,' and many more."

Just as he offered words of support and encouragement to his own family, he is quick to attribute his career in the Army to the mentors he had along the way.

"I love being a Soldier. It is easy to work hard at something you love to do," said Weiss. "I was very fortunate to have several mentors who provided me guidance and direction throughout my career."

His mentors are equally quick to compliment Weiss and recognize his hard work.

"Colonel Weiss is a consummate professional," said Miller. "He has done everything the Army has asked of him and then some. [He is] one of the best operations officers I've ever seen."

His eldest son, Jacob, is a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point and adheres to a lesson his dad taught him at a young age.

"Groups are like strings. You can't get them to do anything by pushing from the back. They just get bunched up. You have to pull from the front and be a leader to get things to happen," Jacob said. "When something needs to get done, I revert back to this piece of knowledge."

Weiss' retirement ceremony is March 22. He said he hopes his 32 years of service will leave a lasting impression on the organization.

"You can learn something from every leader," Weiss said to his son. "They all have lessons to give, but you still have to execute and get the job done."

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