PEORIA, IL (02/18/2011)(readMedia)-- As the old adage goes, 'music has charms to sooth a savage beast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.'

With the title Airmen, many may envision a pilot and flight crew, but there are many other ways Airmen serve their country with a double bassoon instead of a fighter jet.

With more than 150 different occupations in the National Guard, there is only one job that allows a servicemember to use an instrument instead of a weapon. That group of talented citizen-Airmen is part of the Air National Guard Band of the Midwest.

"Each time I sing the armed forces melody while the band plays, it's such an honor to see the veterans stand to their feet," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Keisha Gwin-Goodin of Chicago, a vocalist with the U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America.

The mission of the Illinois Air National Guard's 566th Air Force Band is unique among military units. The Airmen's skills reflect both art and dedication to service in patriotic performance.

"Our mission is multi-faceted," said Air Force Maj. Bryan Miller of Naperville, commander and conductor of the Illinois Air National Guard's 566th Air Force Band. "We are a powerful resource, everything from morale, welfare and recreation to recruiting internally, to improving community relations and portraying a positive image for our nation's military."

The band performs all over the globe, but has had recent concentrations on morale boosting concerts and memorial services in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"With so many military missions in action, we will construct and deploy the most appropriate ensemble needed for the mission," said Miller. "We accomplish this with any number of products to include ceremonial and concert bands, jazz and rock bands, vocalists, buglers and anything else that could best serve a specific mission."

Alongside performing for deployed troop operations, the 566th Air National Guard Band also lifts the

spirits of civilians by performing locally at schools, nursing homes and surrounding organizations.

"The 566th Air National Guard Band is an essential column to the military public affairs structure," said Tech. Sgt. Jack Kinsella of Mahattan, Ill., "Performing not only inspires patriotism, but it most importantly strengthens relationships with a variety of publics to enhance the reputation of the fighting forces of America."

With 11 Air National Guard bands in the continental United States, each band is accountable for supporting units in a multi-state area of responsibility. While performing a diverse line up of patriotic ensembles, the Illinois Air National Guard band has established and maintained an integral root within military history.

Miller said, "I do believe in our mission, whether it's performing for deployed troops in theater, stateside or for the citizenry, we have the unique opportunity to reach out and touch people."

For more information on the band please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office, 217-761-3569.

Washington, DC - February 16, 2011 - Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) met with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki last night to discuss his new leadership role on the House Veterans Affairs committee. Rep. Braley talked about legislation to help Iowa veterans and brought up his concerns about the slow implementation of a law passed last year to help disabled veterans and the people who care for them.

"Secretary Shinseki and I had a great conversation and a productive meeting," said Rep. Braley. "I look forward to working with him and the Veterans Affairs department to ensure that our veterans get the very best care and the benefits they deserve."

Rep. Braley gave Secretary Shinseki a letter detailing his concerns about the delayed implementation of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act - a part of that law was meant to provide financial assistance and counseling to help people taking care of wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Rep. Braley supported the bill in the House last year.

According to media reports, the Department of Veterans Affairs missed the January 31, 2011 deadline for fully implementing the new law, leaving families of wounded veterans without the promised assistance.

A high-resolution photo of Rep. Braley and Secretary Shinseki is available here:
Caption for the photo: Congressman Bruce Braley tells VA Secretary Eric Shinseki about Andrew Connolly of Dubuque, IA - an Iowa Army National Guard soldier who served in Iraq.

A copy of the letter is available here:

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Public Reviews Will Help Non-Profit Organization
Win $5,000 To Support Military Care Package Mission


Encino, CA--February 8, 2011:  Through candid reviews by the public, Operation Gratitude has the opportunity to win a $5,000 prize offered by GuideStar USA, Inc., the leading source of nonprofit information, and KIMBIA, a group that empowers nonprofits and other organizations to increase giving.

This generous gift of $5,000 will help Operation Gratitude support the assembly and postage costs ($15 per package) of individual care packages addressed to deployed troops and Wounded Warriors.


Anyone with firsthand knowledge about Operation Gratitude can write a review on GuideStar.  Operation Gratitude partners, donors, volunteers, sponsors,  package recipients and their families are urged to participate. The review will appear in Operation Gratitude's profile on both  and  (GuideStar's partner that makes it possible to write and post reviews).


"We are incredibly fortunate to have such a passionate and committed support network across the nation," said Operation Gratitude founder Carolyn Blashek. "If every supporter would take just a few moments of their time to write a review, we will be a major contender for the GuideStar-KIMBIA Nonprofit Giveaway. Plus, these reviews will show that we are truly making an impact, working effectively toward our mission, and  greatly benefiting our heroes in harm's way.


The Giveaway Contest began on February 1, 2011, and ends at 11:59 p.m. EDT February 28, 2011. Reviews are limited to one per person.  The organization that receives the most number of reviews on and during this period will win the grand prize of $5,000.

To write a review for Operation Gratitude, please click on and then click "Write a Review" on the lefthand side of the page.


The winner will be announced in March.

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA - Feb. 4, 2011 - The Iowa Farm Bureau's Farm Management Webinar Series will address crop insurance and crop marketing techniques in its next session held on Thursday, Feb. 17. The live webinar will be held at 1 p.m. (CST) .

Dr. William Edwards, Iowa State University economics professor, will lead the webinar, updating farmers' crop insurance knowledge and introducing the new COMBO policy. In addition, Ed Kordick, Iowa Farm Bureau commodity services manager, will discuss pre-harvest marketing plans, along with an early look at potential profitability regarding the 2011 crop.

"This is a great opportunity for farmers to learn up-to-date information that can assist them as they make 2011 crop decisions," said Kordick. "And they can do so from the comfort of their own homes."

Registration is encouraged. To test your computer's access, go online to  Once registered, you will receive an e-mail reminder. Participants can access the webinar at www.iowafarmbureau.comand look for the link on the main rotating banner.

An archived version will be available for Farm Bureau members.

To register and find more information, contact Kordick at 515-225-5433.


Operation Gratitude Extends its Outreach to Our Wounded Warriors


Encino, CA--February 3, 2011: Having already shipped more than 600,000 care packages to service men and women deployed in combat zones, Operation Gratitude is pleased to announce a new program tailored to those wounded in service to their country.


Operation Gratitude will begin providing special Wounded Warrior Care Packages to service members recovering in Military Hospitals and Wounded Warrior Transition units located on military bases throughout the United States.

Wounded Warrior

Prior Wounded Warrior helps others heal at Brooke Army Medical Center WWTU

Further, in recognition that the Wounded Warrior often expresses deep concern for their buddies remaining on the front line, Operation Gratitude will send care packages on behalf of the Wounded Warrior to the rest of his or her unit still deployed downrange.


"We hope that sending those packages to their deployed comrades will help the wounded feel they are still contributing to the mission and supporting their buddies" according to Operation Gratitude founder, Carolyn Blashek.


Wounded Warrior Transition Units ("WWTU") provide critical support to the wounded and their families, focusing on those requiring six months or more of rehabilitative care and complex medical management.


Operation Gratitude Wounded Warrior Care Package deliveries will begin in February.  Patients at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center and soldiers in the WWTU at Ft. Polk, Louisiana will be among the first to receive the shipments.


"Here at the Soldier and Family Assistance Center (SFAC), we provide the non-medical support to the Wounded Warrior and their families assigned/attached to the  Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Polk," explained an SFAC Specialist.  "Your care packages will go a long way in letting the Wounded Warriors here at Fort Polk know that people care."


Operation Gratitude's annual goal is to provide 10,000 of the Wounded Warrior Care Packages filled with specially selected items donated through the generosity of corporate sponsors and supportive citizens, and assembled by the organization's dedicated volunteers.  More packages will be assembled and shipped if requested.


According to representatives at Wounded Warrior facilities, the most needed items are: Healthy Snacks, Entertainment items, Hygiene products, iPods and Gift Cards from chain stores such as supermarkets, drugstores, Target and Walmart.


As with its Care Packages to deployed troops, Operation Gratitude will provide every American a way to express their appreciation and encouragement to our heroes wounded in combat by donating items, contributing funds, crafting hand-made items and writing letters.


Operation Gratitude is particularly requesting personal letters of support and encouragement in order to include several in each package.  For information on writing letters: Letter Writing Flyer

For those wishing to thank a Wounded Warrior, letters and items can be sent to:

Operation Gratitude

17330 Victory Boulevard

Van Nuys, CA 91406

Attn: Wounded Warrior Program

For more information on how to support Wounded Warriors and troops deployed in harm's way, visit: 
How You Can Help


Financial donations can be made online here: Donate to Wounded Warriors or by check made payable and addressed to:

Operation Gratitude

16444 Refugio Road

Encino, CA 91436

SPRINGFIELD, IL - 02/01/2011

The Illinois National Guard has made it a priority to help servicemembers when they return from a mobilization or deployment. While the Illinois National Guard continues to reach out to returning veterans with the "Tying the Yellow Ribbon" campaign, the program also focuses on families of troops who are deployed.

The Illinois Army National Guard will conduct four Reintegration Family Academies in February and March.

Although the free academy is open to any family that has a deployed servicemember in any branch of the military, the focus of these events is to reach out to families of Illinois National Guard members that have deployed or who are currently deployed. Approximately 1,000 members of the Illinois National Guard are deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Egypt.

The intent of the academy is to ensure families receive information and know the resources available to them while their Soldier is deployed.

"Reintegration is not just a program for Soldiers after a deployment. It's something his or her entire family must also undergo as everyone readjusts to changes that have happened during the course of the Soldier's deployment," said 2nd Lt. Justin Anweiler of Lincoln, reintegration program coordinator. "This is one way the Illinois National Guard is trying to help families of our deployed men and women who are sometimes fighting their own battles at home while their servicemember is fighting a war overseas."

Representatives from several different agencies will be available for family members. Some agencies attending include TRICARE (medical and dental insurance), Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Internal Revenue Service and Veteran's Health Administration. There will also be several workshops for families to attend providing guidance and information on issues like marriage after deployment, finances, challenges troops face reuniting with their children and using college education benefits. Counselors will also be available for private consultations.

Illinois National Guard Family Academies

Date Location Time

February 5 Blackhawk Community College; 6600 34th Ave., Moline 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. (POSTPONED)

February 27 Kaskaskia College; 2310 W. Fillmore, Vandalia 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.

March 12 Blackhawk Community College; 26230 Black Hawk Road, Galva 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.

March 13 Devry University; 18624 West Creek Drive, Tinley Park 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.

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SPRINGFIELD, IL (01/31/2011)(readMedia)-- Approximately 20 Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers will be recognized Feb. 5 by the National Guard Bureau Freedom Salute Campaign for their sacrifice and service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The ceremony will be at the Illinois Military Academy at Camp Lincoln in Springfield at 11 a.m.

Soldiers of BEST (Bilateral Embedded Staff Team) A5 returned in October after being mobilized in January 2010 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. They joined the Polish Land Forces before arriving in Afghanistan and worked as a joint unit during the course of the mobilization. The Soldiers are from various parts of Illinois and were selected for the mission based on their training and skills.

The Soldiers were embedded with Task Force White Eagle, which saw more combat action than any other Polish unit since World War II. Task Force White Eagle completed 32 operations, including five air assaults and multiple dismounted infiltration missions. Most missions were completed with the help of the Afghan National Security Forces from the Afghan Uniform Police, National Directorate of Security and the Afghan National Army.

The Soldiers assisted the Afghan government to extend its authority across the country, performed security operations and helped stabilize the war-torn nation. The Soldiers also mentored and supported the Afghan National Army and supported Afghan government programs to disarm illegally armed groups.

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.

News media attending the event should arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the ceremony and are required to notify the Public Affairs Office by 3 p.m. Feb. 4 or they will not be granted access onto Camp Lincoln. For more information call the Public Affairs Office at 217-761-3569.


The Multi-National Force Soldiers Are Located in Sinai, Egypt

SPRINGFIELD, IL (01/28/2011)(readMedia)-- The Illinois Army National Guard's (ILARNG) 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery Regiment deployed to Sinai, Egypt is not being affected by the riots in Cairo except for the interruption of commercial communication.

The nearly 440 Illinois Soldiers are part of the Multinational Force and Observers, an international peacekeeping force overseeing the terms of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. The MFO's bases are hundreds of miles away from Cairo, Egypt where the rioting is taking place.

The interruption of commercial communication is affecting ILARNG Soldiers' ability to quickly communicate via email and telephone with their loved ones here in Illinois. Military communication channels between the MFO and the Illinois National Guard are still open and are being used to keep families abreast of the situation.

The rioting is not directed toward the MFO or the ILARNG Soldiers. The Illinois National Guard Soldiers stationed in Sinai are professional, highly trained and able to respond to a variety of incidents. If the situation in Egypt changes the MFO and ILARNG is capable of taking appropriate measures to safeguard American troops.

The 123rd Field Artillery deployed to Sinai in May 2010 and will return home May 2011.

For more information please contact the Public Affairs Office at 217-761-3569 or

WASHINGTON - Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin, along with the rest of the Iowa Congressional delegation, held a ceremony presenting Hiawatha native Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta with a Concurrent Resolution honoring his incredible valor and courage on the battlefield.

Giunta, a native of Hiawatha, was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor, by President Barack Obama on November 16, 2010 for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in Afghanistan on October 25, 2007.  Giunta is the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.  Giunta was also a guest in First Lady Michelle Obama's box for President Obama's State of the Union address last night.

"Staff Sgt. Giunta is a selfless and courageous hero that all Iowans can be proud to call one of their own," Grassley said. "He is truly deserving of the highest honor given to an American service member. May God continue to bless him and all those in the armed services protecting our nation."

"In recent years, Americans have woken up to the truth that our real heroes are not on our movie screens or in our sports arenas," Harkin said. "Our real heroes are serving our nation in uniform with enormous professionalism, sacrifice, and courage.  I have listened very closely to Sergeant Giunta's previous remarks about his actions on that fateful day in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.  He is uncomfortable about being singled out.  He said:  "If I am a hero, every man that stands around me, every woman in the military, everyone who goes into the unknown is a hero."

"I can't disagree with Sergeant Giunta.  And I respect his Iowa brand of modesty, which is totally genuine.  And I see in him other qualities that we prize in Iowa, including his powerful sense of purpose and duty.  But Sergeant Giunta's actions on that day stand out as truly extraordinary and exemplary.  The state of Iowa has a right to be very, very proud."

Click here to view video of the event on YouTube.

from Rep. Braley's office:

Washington, DC - Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) and members of the Iowa delegation honored Iowa native and Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.  Senator Daniel Inouye, also a Medal of Honor recipient, joined the full Iowa delegation to present the joint resolution honoring SSGT. Giunta.

Following the ceremony, Rep. Braley released the following statement

"Staff Sergeant Giunta makes us all proud to be Iowans. His heroic service is a credit to his family, his unit and the state of Iowa. Today, we recognize him for his remarkable heroism - but as he quickly pointed out himself - we must also recognize the everyday heroism of all the men and women in uniform, our veterans, and the military families that take on the proud burden of fighting for our country and defending our freedom.

"It's an honor to recognize Staff Sergeant Giunta and I'm pleased we could welcome him to the Capitol."

SSGT. Giunta is the first living Medal of Honor Recipient since the Vietnam War. He was born in Clinton, IA and his family currently resides in Hiawatha, IA. Giunta was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor, by President Barack Obama on November 16, 2010, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in Afghanistan on October 25, 2007.



# # #

WASHINGTON - January, 26, 2011 - Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), today announced they introduced legislation to create job opportunities for veterans returning home from war and help businesses create jobs.

"These men and women are extremely capable," Grassley said.  "They have a lot of skills to offer in the workplace.  This legislation will clear some bureaucratic hurdles and add a financial incentive to encourage employers to seek out veterans.  These steps are a logical follow-up to my effort to increase the IRS' hiring of veterans.  The IRS saw the value of this pool of potential workers and followed through on increased hiring of veterans.  Other employers, including small businesses, should have similar opportunities."

This Veterans Employment Transition Act, or the VETs Jobs bill, would reward employers for hiring qualified veterans who have recently completed their service in the military with a tax credit of up to $2,400 per veteran.  A previous version of this credit, which was part of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, was designed to help employers hire veterans but expired at the end of 2010.  The new version of the legislation would reinstate the tax credit and make it easier for veterans and small businesses to use.  As a result, servicemen and women who have been recently discharged would be able to provide documentation directly from the Department of Defense without having to go through the tax credit's current certification process

Any veteran who has left active duty in the past five years who has discharge paperwork showing 180 days of qualified active duty would be eligible for the credit. This would include those men and women who were activated by their states as members of the National Guard.  The bill also helps service members market themselves to prospective employers by requiring the military to educate service members about how the credit works

Noting that the unemployment rate for veterans is higher than for non-veterans nationwide, the senators first introduced the VETs Jobs bill last May.  The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other veteran service organizations are strong supporters of the legislation.

The text of the legislation can be found at