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 ngilstaffpao@ng.army.mil.

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.



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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 http://finance.senate.gov/legislation/.