Jan. 20 - 29: 2012 American Legion Department of Illinois Annual Caravan to Deliver Veterans Assistance and Rehabilitation Message National Vice
Commander Milton G. Heifner to join in visits to VA hospitals in Illinois

For Immediate Release BLOOMINGTON, Ill./EWORLDWIRE/Jan. 18, 2012 --- Among the issues to be spotlighted during the 2012 American Legion Department of Illinois Annual Caravan through the state are veterans' healthcare and Medicare reimbursement, maintenance and operations of Arlington National Cemetery, and the women veterans' program.  This year's forum continues the theme of "Veterans Assistance and Rehabilitation" and will focus on delivering key updates to military service personnel about issues that directly impact them, and to attract new members to the Legion's active base. In recent weeks, the American Legion Department of Illinois was joined by the Illinois State Senate with its endorsement of an initiative to create a centralized communications channel centered on veterans - Veterans Special Programs American National Network , also known as V-SPANN.  Community outreach efforts kick off Friday, Jan. 20, 2011, in Viola and will proceed through the state during a week-long state tour.

Statewide visits to V.A. clinics will feature National Vice Commander Milton G. Heifner, along with state and local leaders. Heifner was elected during the closing session of the 93nd National Convention in Milwaukee in September 2011; he has held many leadership positions at the post, department and national levels. A U.S. Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War era, he retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1992. Previous positions he has held include branch manager of Brenton State Bank in Woodward and agent for Erickson Insurance in Granger, Iowa.  A complete and comprehensive schedule is available at ILLegion.org (http://www.illegion.org).  

Friday (Jan. 20)  Milan (309-787-4149)  Rock Falls (815-626-3862) North Chicago (847-336-4767)

Saturday (Jan. 21) Wooddale (630-238-1205)  DeKalb (815-756-4551)  Dwight (815-674-3107)

Sunday (Jan. 22)  Chicago (773-330-5219) FDR Post 923 (773-278-0093) Giles Post 87 (773-363-2920) Calumet City 330 (708-862-8665)

Jan. 23-26: State Veterans Homes Visits  Thursday (Jan. 26)  Fairfield (618-847-5161) Friday (Jan. 27)  Benton (618-438-0861) Newton (618-783-2622) Litchfield (217-324-6213) Saturday (Jan. 28)  Alton (618-462-2644)  Bluffs (217-584-1770)  Cuba (309-785-5456)  Sunday (Jan. 29)  Delevan (309-244-7591)  Farmer City (309-928-3055)  Hoopston (217-283-6312)  

Since its founding in 1919 and subsequent Congressional Charter, The American Legion organization has operated unlike any other, exerting a  compelling influence on national leaders on issues of global significance. Legion operations enhance the lives of military families struggling through wartime and economic sacrifices. Members serve the community by building homes for disabled veterans, raising money for scholarships, coaching baseball teams, adopting military units, fighting to protect and enhance veterans' benefits, promoting wholesome youth activities and much more.

National Vice Commander Heifner stated, "This is an unprecedented time in our nation's history, with so many in need - our veterans especially need our help, and we have a moral obligation to support them. I invite everyone to join us in our annual family membership caravan at a post near you."  

To learn more about how to get involved and support the activities of the American Legion, visit JoinTheLegion.org (http://www.jointhelegion.org) or ILLegion.org (http://www.illegion.org).

Belleville Workshop Gets Public Involved in Helping Servicemembers After They Return from Deployment; Story by Spc. Dan LoGrasso, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

BELLEVILLE, IL (01/17/2012)(readMedia)-- Military counselors, Illinois National Guard members and counseling professionals from across central Illinois met at Lindenwood University in Belleville for the pilot program to help servicemembers following deployment. The Illinois National Guard partnered with the East St. Louis Vet Center and St. Louis Veterans Affairs Medical Center for the program.

The Jan. 13 workshop was designed by the National Guard's Service Member and Family Support Services to educate civilian counselors on the realities of mental health issues like post-traumatic stress and survivor's guilt affecting military members and their families.

The new workshop is part of Lindenwood University's Professional and School Counseling Continuing Education Program. Ken Kubicek, division chair of the Education and Counseling Division at Lindenwood and a Vietnam veteran, said professional counselors in Illinois must have continuous education to keep their licenses, and many have begun looking for military-specific education to meet the needs of returning veterans and their families.

"It was hard to believe that this presentation was a pilot program," said Kubicek. "It was very well-prepared and polished."

More than 1.9 million servicemembers have been deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom and an estimated 30 percent have or will have psychological injuries.

Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart of Belleville, Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, said the Department of Veterans Affairs needs assistance and educating civilian counselors and local communities will ensure help is rapidly available to servicemembers and their families.

"Many people ask me, 'What can I do to help?'" said Enyart. "And the fact that 40 professionals came [to the workshop] despite weather shows that this country values their veterans."

Eric Murray, chief of Service Member and Family Support Services for the Illinois National Guard, organized the workshop. He said he feels good about the pilot program and will follow up with the attendees to see how they are applying the workshop's material professionally and improve the program.

"The community reaching out to us to host shows how eager people are to help and support service members." said Murray. "They understand that being home from theater does not mean troops are done needing help."

During her lecture on post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor's guilt, Illinois National Guard Director of Psychological Health, Juliann Steinbeigle, described military mental health issues as injuries, not illnesses. Guy Spooner, registered nurse and case manager at the St. Louis Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said working with veterans can be challenging because of the stigma attached to mental health issues, which the Department of Veterans Affairs is working to erase.

"[Mental health professionals] need to look [veterans] in the eye and tell them, 'You're normal. You're having a normal response to an abnormal problem.'" said Spooner.

The Coast Guard was cited by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management as a government-wide leader in diversity and inclusion best practices during 2011. That designation was earned through the hard work of the men and women in the Coast Guard's Office of Diversity.

"I'm very proud of the work we've done," said diversity outreach manager Donna Walker-Ross, a Coast Guard civilian employee. "One of our best practices is the Diversity Outreach Board.  We used the board as a team to evaluate programs and events and to align initiatives while promoting the commandant's diversity strategy.  Then, we developed and carried out a national strategy that has increased the Coast Guard's presence in communities and organizations."

The Office of Diversity developed the Coast Guard's Diversity Strategic Plan with five goals: To assure a diverse workforce through all-hands commitment with leadership accountability; fully utilize communication and focus groups to improve the workforce cultural climate; expand outreach to achieve access opportunity for underrepresented populations; ensure equitable hiring and career opportunity for all employees; and optimize training and education to enhance diversity management and leadership skill sets. Achievement of these goals is what has led to the success of the program.

The commitment with leadership accountability resulted in 42 flag officers and senior executive service members participating in national outreach events as attendees or speakers. That effort is in line with Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Bob Papp's guiding principle of "Respect our shipmates," which holds leaders at all levels accountable to keeping a workplace climate of equity. That principle also fosters an environment where every individual has the opportunity to prosper and advance their careers.

The Office of Diversity staff also took an active role to improve the workforce cultural climate.  Among their efforts was participation in 165 national outreach events in 2011 to communicate the commandant's diversity message to all levels in the Coast Guard; establishment of a Coast Guard-wide Asian-American mentoring network; and expansion of the use of audience response technology throughout the Coast Guard to enhance the effectiveness of its diversity training.

Expanding outreach to underrepresented populations increased significantly in 2011.  For example, the Coast Guard had worked for several years building relationships with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and the Society of American Indian Government Employees to reach out to tribal colleges and universities. This year, those efforts culminated with the Coast Guard  being listed as one of the top achievers among the Department of Homeland Security component agencies in support of Native American initiatives in the Annual Performance Report on Executive Agency Actions to Assist Tribal Colleges and Universities.

An effective management tool for the Coast Guard's Office of Diversity is the Executive Outreach Management System, a database that collects and organizes information about outreach efforts. This database allows easy access to information on what outreach has been conducted, what is scheduled and what comments were received at events.  Review of the data prevents duplicative efforts and provides background information for new board members to study. It can produce several different reports on events, outreach personnel and results of event participation, allowing the Diversity Office personnel to more efficiently manage the time and effort put into their programs.  It also helps compile the best practices inclusion reports, which describe what a federal agency did each year for diversity improvement.

The Coast Guard worked to provide professional development tools and mentoring as a means to retain a highly-skilled and diverse workforce and to ensure equitable hiring and career opportunities for all employees. Adapting to the digital information environment and the technology used by "digital natives," the Coast Guard Academy established an online mentoring forum for cadets where they interact with senior, active-duty members. Initiatives for civilian employees include a modular, Web-based mentoring program in the Learning Management System.  An afloat working group was established for sea-going service members to identify and address diversity issues specific to the afloat community.

Every new Coast Guard employee received the Coast Guard's updated diversity and inclusion briefing at the new employee and leadership development program orientations to underscore the value of workforce diversity and the benefits of inclusion, equity and respect for all personnel, their talents, experiences and abilities.  The Coast Guard also successfully conducted diversity and inclusion training at six major leadership forums.  This training, which underscores the value of workforce diversity, provided senior leadership with the tools necessary to carry out the Commandant's Diversity Strategic Plan.

The Coast Guard, the U.S. Department of Defense and other service branches partner with affinity groups and organizations annually to host national civil rights award ceremonies recognizing active-duty and civilian personnel for their accomplishments in civil/human rights, race relations, equal opportunity and affirmative action.

This year's Coast Guard award recipients were nominated for their work in assisting the Coast Guard workforce, community involvement, contributions to public service, overcoming discrimination, supporting civil rights for all Americans and promoting a positive understanding of the armed forces among all members of the U.S. military and civilian population.

The awards are listed in the order of their presentation throughout 2011:

  • National Image, Inc., Meritorious Service Award:  Lt. Yamaris Barril, 9th Coast Guard District, Cleveland, Ohio, and Jose Velazques of the Coast Guard Personnel Service Command, U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
  • Federal Asian Pacific American Council Meritorious Service Award:  Lt. Charlene Forgue, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Conn., and Lt. Andrew Taylor, 17th Coast Guard District, Juneau, Alaska.
  • Society of American Indian Government Employees Meritorious Service Award:  Petty Officer 2nd Class Franklin Pine, Marine Safety Laboratory, New London, Conn.
  • Civil Rights Service Provider of the Year Award:  Lt. Gregory Spruill of Pacific Area Command, Alameda, Calif.
  • Federally Employed Women Military Meritorious Award:  Chief Warrant Officer Eneida Bull, Sector Miami, Fla.
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award: 
    Lt. Deon Scott of Sector San Francisco, Calif.
  • Blacks In Government Meritorious Service Award:  Curtis Odom, Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C., and Lt. j.g. Michael Johnson of Air Station Savannah, Ga.
  • National Organization for Mexican American Rights Meritorious Service Award:  Gloria Potocek, Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C., and Chief Petty Officer Carlos Gonzalez of Sector Los Angeles/Long Beach, Calif.
  • Latina Symposium Distinguished Service Award: Lt. Cmdr. Angelina Hidalgo of Sector Los Angeles/Long Beach, Calif., and Nadine Santiago of Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

December marked the 10th anniversary of the Coast Guard's formal entry into the national intelligence community, although many had long perceived the Coast Guard as a de facto member.

The Coast Guard began its long involvement with the work of intelligence in 1790. Tariffs imposed on goods imported to the United States, in order to raise revenue, caused lawless merchants to unload their cargoes at isolated locations to avoid paying the tariffs at customs houses in ports. Identifying this as a threat within the new nation's maritime domain, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton requested and received 10 revenue cutters to patrol the coast to identify smugglers and ensure tariffs were paid.

Modern intelligence operations began developing as a discrete service in the Coast Guard around 1915. By the time Prohibition became the law of the land, the Coast Guard had developed into an effective force against the smuggling of liquor and narcotics. This caused crime syndicates to use clandestine radio stations to communicate between their smuggling vessels and land-based operations. Coast Guard intelligence forces broke the smugglers' codes, enabling the service to battle the smugglers and break up criminal syndicates. A Coast Guard intelligence unit was established in Boston in 1934 and in 1936 an Intelligence Division was created at Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C., both a result of the service's successes.

Members of Coast Guard intelligence were involved in efforts to minimize sabotage and espionage throughout World War II. Coast Guard intelligence worked to secure, evaluate and disseminate information pertaining to Coast Guard and maritime matters, including assisting in identifying known and potential enemy agents and sympathizers. Coast Guard intelligence personnel were involved with counterintelligence support for the war effort in many critical ports throughout the United States. Because of the efforts of Coast Guard intelligence during the war there was not a single known instance of foreign-inspired sabotage on vessels or waterfront facilities in the U.S.

The Coast Guard continued its efforts against narcotics smuggling in the decades following the war.  The 1980 Mariel Boatlift, the mass exodus of Cuban migrants from their island nation to the U.S., reinforced the need for intelligence capabilities to further develop and become more structured. Federal officials realized the nature of many threats facing the United States were seaborne and the Coast Guard, with its unique capabilities and intelligence work, was seen as the agency that had much to offer against those threats.

"Intelligence is a force multiplier and a hedge against risk," said Rear Adm. Thomas F. Atkin, assistant commandant for Intelligence and Criminal Investigations. "Intelligence support is at the heart of the Coast Guard motto: Semper Paratus [Always Ready]. We work to create decision advantage to protect and advance U.S. interests. We accomplish this by conducting intelligence operations and activities to provide timely, relevant and actionable intelligence to shape operations, planning and decision-making. In a time of dwindling resources, it's important to have appropriate levels of intelligence to identify and warn against the next threat on the horizon."

The U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Committee on Select Intelligence discussed the Coast Guard's role in counter-drug intelligence and in the late 1990s began discussions about making the Coast Guard part of the broader intelligence community. The incidents of Sept. 11, became demonstrative of the kind of close-to-home, national security issues in which the Coast Guard would play a vital role. The Intelligence Authorization Act of 2002 formally brought the Coast Guard into the intelligence community.

Formal inclusion in the intelligence community has resulted in additional authorities and resources for the Coast Guard, enabling the agency to expand its capabilities to include a cryptology program (codebreaking) and a counterintelligence service.  The counterintelligence service helps preserve the operational integrity of the Coast Guard by shielding it from the intelligence activities of foreign powers, terrorist groups, and criminal organizations.

Coast Guard Intelligence applies its capabilities to all Coast Guard mission sets and has provided support for major operations including the response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Intelligence personnel provided the earliest port infrastructure damage reports, which supported multi-national efforts to provide relief and port recovery. Coast Guard Intelligence also produced threat assessments and briefings that supported force protection decisions and other national and interagency operational decisions.

In addition to numerous drug and human smuggling cases, Coast Guard Intelligence has provided critical support to Coast Guard commanders wrestling with non-traditional intelligence needs, such as the interdiction of the Bangun Perkasa fishing vessel and its use of illegal driftnets.

Coast Guard intelligence has matured during the last 10 years and its focus has solidified. In addition to the cryptology program and counterintelligence service, Coast Guard intelligence includes a robust criminal investigative service, experienced intelligence fusion centers, and a developing cyber capability. Coast Guard intelligence specialists in the field are a critical component of the enterprise, working in units across the nation and throughout the Coast Guard chain of command to provide operational commanders with the intelligence support they need.    Today's Coast Guard intelligence encompasses a wide range of activities and capabilities, all striving to provide decision advantage to support senior Coast Guard leaders in their policy-making role, the Department of Homeland Security and its components, and other national intelligence or federal law enforcement agencies.

"Coast Guard intelligence provides operational commanders with the understanding they need to make decisions on how best to deploy assets and conduct operations," said Adm. Bob Papp, commandant of the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard's persistent presence in the maritime domain, due to its diverse mission sets and broad legal authorities, fills a unique niche within the intelligence community. As a member of the armed forces, the Coast Guard is at the intersection between homeland security and national defense. As a federal law enforcement agency and national intelligence community member, the Coast Guard is also positioned as a bridge between these two important groups. Because of the service's unique access, emphasis and expertise in the maritime domain - an area where other U.S. government agencies typically are not present - it collects and reports intelligence that supports its own missions as well as national security objectives.

Nearly 20 Soldiers Mobilize Jan. 4 as Part of an Embedded Training Team

SPRINGFIELD, IL (12/28/2011)(readMedia)-- A deployment ceremony is scheduled for approximately 20 Soldiers who will deploy to Afghanistan as part of an embedded training team. The ceremony for the Bilateral Embedded Staff Team (BEST) A9 will be Jan.4 at 1 p.m. at the Illinois Military Academy at Camp Lincoln in Springfield.

The BEST Soldiers will train for a brief time at Camp Atterbury, Ind., before deploying to Poland for approximately two months to train with the Polish Land Forces. The unique mission allows Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers to train and deploy side-by-side with their Polish counterparts. Following the training, the Soldiers will deploy to Afghanistan for a six-month mobilization. The Soldiers are from various parts of Illinois and were selected for the mission based on their training and skills.

"This mobilization illustrates the diverse skill sets and training of our Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers and the variety of missions we support in today's challenging international environment, as well as in our state and community," said Maj. Gen. William Enyart, Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. "These troops are instrumental in helping train foreign Soldiers to defend their country while polishing our Guardsmen's skills."

The team will assist the Afghan government to extend its authority across the country, perform security operations and help stabilize the war-torn nation. The Soldiers will also mentor and support the Afghan National Army and support Afghan government programs to disarm illegally armed groups.

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 10 a.m., Jan.4 or they will not be allowed access onto Camp Lincoln. For more information call the Public Affairs Office at 217-761-3569.

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66 years later, Zane Thorpe will finally receive seven medals he earned in service to his country 

 

Waterloo, IA - Today, Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) will travel to Dubuque to present seven military service medals - including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star - to Zane Thorpe, a World War II Army veteran who was awarded the medals but never received them after he was honorably discharged from the military in 1945.

In his discharge papers, the Army told Thorpe he was entitled to the medals, but because of a shortage, they were never given to him.  This November, Thorpe's family approached Braley's office for assistance in finally obtaining the medals, 66 years after they were granted.

Thorpe enlisted in the Army in April 1943.  After basic training, he was assigned to the 157th Combat Regiment, 45th Division, 3rd Battalion, L Company, which was deployed to Sicily and campaigned throughout Italy.  By 1944, Thorpe's unit had moved on to France and later Germany, where he was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge.  Thorpe was evacuated to a hospital in England, and was transferred to a hospital in Texas.  He was discharged in July 1945 after V-E Day.

The Medals Award Ceremony was held on Thursday, December 22nd, 2011 @ 11:00am at the Oak Park Place Senior Community, 1381 Oak Park Place in Dubuque, Iowa

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CHICAGO, IL (12/21/2011)(readMedia)-- On the morning of Dec. 3, the booming voices of drill sergeants were heard throughout the Illinois National Guard's Kedzie armory in Chicago.

Recruits stood at attention while cadre of Company B, Illinois National Guard Recruiting Retention Command (RRC) conducted a simulated day of Army basic training.

With their families in attendance, recruits took part in the Recruit Sustainment Program (RSP) workshops. The program is sponsored by the Family Support Brigade, a not-for-profit organization partnered with RSP to provide family support, and is designed to give both new recruits and their families an in depth look at the life of a Soldier in basic training.

"We are here to prepare the recruits physically, mentally and emotionally for the military," said 1st Sgt. Aaron Ferrer of Highland Park, the senior enlisted adviser for Company B.

The day consisted of four main events that included combatives, weapons familiarization, team building exercises and military operations in an urbanized terrain training.

These events instill discipline and confidence in the recruits. For example, combatives provides them a better working knowledge of self defense they can use in future operations, said Staff Sgt. Justin M. Gullion of Northbrook, the level-one combatives instructor for Company B.

Pvt. Katharine Linhart of Brookfield, with Company B, enlisted her junior year of high school. She recently completed Basic Combat Training and will attend Advance Individual Training to become a combat medic after she completes high school.

Linhart said the RSP training prepared her for basic training and helped her maintain that discipline.

"It's been very active and we do a lot of hands-on training," said Linhart.

The program exposes enlistees to what they may experience in basic training and gets them accustomed to the Army's core values, other Soldiers and noncommissioned officers.

"It definitely makes me feel like I chose to do the right thing with my life," said Linhart.

The program was designed not only to show recruits and their families the military lifestyle, but also as a tool to keep recruiting numbers high and attrition rate low.

By giving recruits a "sneak peak" at what to expect in basic training helps them make an educated decision on whether or not the military is the correct career path for them.

The state's program has shown increasingly effective results, said Ferrer. While the National Guard Bureau standard is 83 percent of Soldiers to ship to basic training, the Illinois National Guard has exceeded this.

"Our numbers in the state of Illinois for Fiscal Year 2011 recruit ship rate was 91 percent," said Ferrer. "This clearly shows that programs like RSP are working to make the process of recruitment and retention more efficient."

"Preparing and ensuring these recruits and their families a smooth transition into the military arena is our goal and we are here to do just that," said Ferrer.

Photo 1: Photo by Sgt. Charlie Helmholt, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment / Staff Sgt. Justin M. Gullion of Northbrook, the level-one combatives instructor for Company B, Illinois National Guard Recruiting and Retention Command, displays a dominant mounting technique to family members during a self defense workshop as a part of the recruit sustainment program Dec. 3 at the Illinois National Guard Kedzie armory Chicago.

Photo 2: Photo by Spc. Jason Dorsey, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Staff Sgt. Francisco Santiago of Chicago, of Company B, Illinois National Guard Recruit Retention Command, explains the fundamentals of weapons handling during a class on urban warfare training as part of a recruit sustainment program workshop Dec. 3 at the Illinois National Guard Kedzie armory in Chicago.

For high resolution photos, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office at ngilstaffpao@ng.army.mil

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New Laws Improve Access to Jobs, Health Insurance

CHICAGO - December 19, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation that will improve the quality of life for Illinois' Veterans. Senate Bill 1587, sponsored by Sen. Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago) and Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago), and Senate Bill 40, sponsored by Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Highwood) and Rep. Lisa Dugan (D-Kankakee), make it easier for Veterans to gain access to employment and health care.

"The men and women who have courageously defended our democracy overseas should not return home only to fight for necessities like jobs and health insurance," said Governor Quinn. "We owe it to our Veterans to make their transition to civilian life as seamless as possible."

Senate Bill 1587 makes it easier for Veterans to become members of the Illinois State Police (ISP). Under the new law, education requirements will be waived for individuals who have been honorably discharged with a campaign medal after serving in Afghanistan or Iraq. On average, a servicemember serves three to four years before being discharged, and that experience makes Veterans particularly valuable assets to the ISP.

"Having been a Veteran who returned home and found limited job opportunities, I applaud the efforts of Governor Quinn and the state legislators to improve the quality of life for soldiers seeking to further their careers to serve and protect," said Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau. "This law will give Veterans every opportunity to apply and test within our department, and will significantly increase the pool of qualified, experienced candidates representing the Illinois State Police."

Governor Quinn also signed Senate Bill 40, which extends the Veterans' Care program. The program provides Veterans with comprehensive health care coverage for $40 or $70 per month (depending on income). The program had been set to expire on Jan. 1.

"Employment and the availability affordable of healthcare are among the most critical needs of the Illinois veteran community," said Erica Borggren, Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs. "These measures will have an immediate, direct impact for Illinois' past and present heroes in uniform."

The law also helps members of the Illinois National Guard receive compensation more quickly when responding to in-state natural disasters. Under the law, the Illinois National Guard State Active Duty Fund will be created to more efficiently reimburse Guard members called to active duty in the event of state disasters.

"Our Soldiers and Airmen always stand ready for any mission, whether here at home or overseas," said Maj. Gen. William Enyart, Illinois National Guard Adjutant General. "As responders, this bill will help the Illinois National Guard's immediate response to emergencies. It will allow us to move forward during the mission knowing our soldiers, airmen and suppliers will receive prompt payment during a crisis and won't have to worry about paying their families bills."

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

 

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Saluting Service and Sacrifice

by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Iowans will welcome friends and family home for the holidays this month to celebrate the joys of the season together.  Kids home from college and relatives from far and near will gather under one roof to enjoy each other's company.

For U.S. military families, the return of 45,000 troops from Iraq arguably wins the best homecoming present of the season.  Nearly nine years after the war started in March 2003, American troops have fought to defend freedom and protect U.S. national security interests in and around Afghanistan and Iraq. The men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line in service to our country have earned a debt of gratitude from the American public.

The American public cannot afford to become complacent about the mission and contribution of the U.S. military.  The military serves in many cases as the world's first and last line of defense for freedom, liberty and democracy at home and abroad.  Ultimately, it is the courageous members of the U.S. Armed Forces who serve on the front lines to protect our American way of life here at home.

Iowa has a long-held tradition of honoring members of the Armed Forces and the citizen-soldiers of the National Guard and Reserves.  Local communities and veterans' service organizations for generations have organized celebrations for hometown heroes deploying to and returning from military service, as well as memorials for those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

In Washington, I work to square the needs of a strong U.S. military and the sacrifices of the taxpaying public.  Recently, I've worked to raise awareness and increase federal help for our members of the Armed Forces who suffer from service-related mental health conditions and injuries.  An increasing number of veterans return from the battlefield with invisible wounds.  In 2007, I worked with Iowa lawmakers to pass the "Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act" in honor of an Iowa veteran who took his own life after returning home from active duty.

Seeking to help military veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, I worked to help secure passage this year of a federal tax incentive that would make it easier for small businesses to hire qualified military veterans.  In recognition of their skills and service to our country, I've also called upon federal agencies to hire qualified military veterans.  As a result, the IRS has hired thousands of vets in the last four years.

During this season of joy and celebration, let's remember to salute the service and sacrifice made by America's veterans and members of the U.S. Armed Forces.  Thanks to their commitment to duty, honor and country, America continues to be the land of the free and home of the brave.

Monday, December 19, 2011

SPRINGFIELD, IL (12/16/2011)(readMedia)-- When Senior Airman Evan Stevens first heard the explosion, he thought it was incoming fire and a possible ambush, so he took cover.

Stevens, who has been a member of the 183rd Fighter Wing's Security Forces Squadron in Springfield for the past four years, was 100 meters outside the gate of Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan conducting a presence patrol early one May morning.

Staff Sgt. Russell Logan, of the 164th Airlift Wing's Security Forces Squadron in Memphis, Tenn., stepped on an anti-personnel mine causing the explosion. The field had been established as cleared.

"I didn't realize he was alive until I heard him scream," said Stevens.

Stevens was the team's lead combat life saver and with his alternate, Senior Airman Yanick Koenig, of the 143rd Airlift Wing's Security Forces Squadron in Quonset Point, R.I., together administered first aid to Logan.

"We saw that his left leg had been amputated by the land mine and immediately started going through the individual first aid kit for tourniquets."

They applied a tourniquet to each leg, said Stevens. Logan also had wounds to his stomach and other areas.

"I saw black dirt and a white light," said Logan. "I didn't know I was hurt, but only felt pressure."

Stevens and Koenig applied the necessary bandages and were ready to move Logan's stretcher when a second mine exploded. Staff Sgt. Ben Seekell, a dog handler from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina, had stepped on another land mine and lost his foot due to the explosion.

"We were a little confused and slowly began to figure out that we were standing in a mine field," said Stevens.

With only one stretcher, a couple team members, including Staff Sgt. Christopher Mazrim of the 183rd Security Forces Squadron, moved Seekell as the team walked a straight line back out the way they had entered, said Stevens.

"In those situations, seconds count and if you practice with your medical supplies and know where everything is, the better off you will be," said Stevens. "That day we learned that placement and practice is beyond vital."

Logan was evacuated to Germany within a few days of the detonation and had nine surgeries. He was released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Oct. 11 and is back to work at the 164th.

Stevens, of Rochester, returned from his deployment in early October with his 13-man security forces team and reunited with Logan at the Enlisted Leadership Symposium in Nashville Tenn., Nov. 1.

"I got to see him again in much better shape than the last time I saw him," said Stevens.

Logan said it was one of the worst situations, yet one of the best things that has happened to him.

"It showed me what life really means," said Logan, who has a 21-month-old daughter at home.

The two Airmen plan to stay in touch and remain tied through their experience overseas.

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