Unveils Portrait of a Soldier Memorial Exhibit, Encourages Remembrance and Service

CHICAGO - September 11, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today joined Gold Star families to honor the sacrifices that Illinois servicemembers have made in the global war against terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001. Governor Quinn unveiled the Portrait of a Soldier Memorial exhibit this morning at DePaul University in Chicago.

"As we observe the anniversary of one of America's darkest days, we must remember those who have given their lives to protect our country and the debt we owe them that can never be repaid," Governor Quinn said. "I am proud today to stand with some of Illinois' true heroes - our Gold Star families - as we honor the sacrifice they and their loved ones have made."

The Portrait of a Soldier Memorial exhibit, which has been viewed by thousands of people throughout Illinois, is a series of hand-drawn portraits of more than 250 Illinois men and women who have died in service to our country since Sept. 11, 2001.

Starting today, the exhibit will be on display at DePaul University's Loop campus at 333 South State Street through September 16.

Artist Cameron Schilling of Mattoon drew the first portrait of a soldier in August 2004, after Army Spc. Charles Neeley, also of Mattoon, was killed in Iraq. Schilling presented the portrait to Spc. Neely's parents to convey his sympathy for their loss. In Oct. 2005, while a student at Eastern Illinois University, Schilling decided to draw a portrait of every Illinois servicemember who has fallen during the Global War on Terror.

Governor Quinn is encouraging Illinois residents to pause today and recognize the servicemen and servicewomen who have lost their lives fighting for democracy overseas and the thousands of Illinois troops that have served around the world in the 10 years since September 11, 2011. All state buildings have been directed to fly their flags at half-mast from sunrise to sunset.

In recognition of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Governor Quinn also proclaimed today a day of service and remembrance. A copy of the proclamation is attached.

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CHICAGO, IL (09/10/2011)(readMedia)-- Members of the Illinois Army National Guard joined Gov. Pat Quinn in Chicago Sept. 10 stressing the importance of the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund. To date, the fund has distributed almost $13 million dollars to Illinois military families to assist with the financial burden at home when a loved one is deployed.

Photo 1: U.S. Army photo by Maj. Brad Leighton, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart of Belleville, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, speaks about the importance of the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund (IMFRF) to the over 19,000 Illinois National Guard troops who have deployed overseas since Sept. 11, 2001. The IMFRF was the first of its kind to be established after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. To the right of Enyart is Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Director Erica Borggren. The governor's press conference was held at the Illinois Army National Guard's Calumet Avenue readiness center in Chicago on Saturday, Sept. 10.

Photo 2: U.S. Army photo by Maj. Brad Leighton, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/

Sgt. Charlie Helmholt of Belleville of the Illinois Army National Guard's 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment speaks of his experiences on Sept. 11, 2001 when he was a member of the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division "The Old Guard," which responded to the Pentagon immediately after the terrorist attacks. Helmholt said the police officers, firefighters and servicemembers are much more heroic than sports stars or movie actors. To the right of Helmholt is Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. The governor's press conference was held at the Illinois Army National Guard's Calumet Avenue readiness center in Chicago on Saturday, Sept. 10.

Photo 3: U.S. Army photo by Maj. Brad Leighton, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Capt. Ling Chong of the Illinois Army National Guard's Co. C, 341st Military Intelligence Battalion in Crestwood speaks about how the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund benefitted him and his family as well as many of the Soldiers he leads. Behind Chong is Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. The governor's press conference was held at the Illinois Army National Guard's Calumet Avenue readiness center in Chicago on Saturday, Sept. 10.

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

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SPRINGFIELD, IL (09/08/2011)(readMedia)-- By 2nd Lt. April Hawes, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs

Before the planes hit and before the towers crumbled, it was a routine Tuesday morning for four Illinois National Guardsmen. One Soldier was teaching in his classroom while a future Illinois Soldier was listening to her teacher in biology class. Across the world, an Illinois Airman arrived in Germany for annual training. Another Airman, then with the New York National Guard, was on Long Island when disaster struck.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Carlock

When Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Carlock, of Astoria, joined the Illinois Army National Guard in 1993, he did it because he wanted to continue his family heritage of military service while getting his education. Soon after, he became a high school teacher in Astoria.

September 11, 2001 another teacher told Carlock what was happening on the east coast. He immediately turned on the TV in his classroom to see it for himself.

"I stopped all of my planned lessons for the day and made all of my students watch everything on the news," he said. "I urged them to remember that day as it would be a pivotal day in American history and they are to witness it."

Carlock, who is assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 44th Chemical Battalion in Macomb, said he was instantly shocked and angered when he witnessed the 9/11 attacks. He then realized, as an Illinois National Guardsman, he needed to be prepared to possibly deploy stateside or abroad because of these attacks.

Carlock eventually deployed in 2004 to Iraq with Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery in Macomb.

Since he has joined, witnessed those terrorist attacks and deployed, Carlock said he is proud of his service in the Illinois Army National Guard.

"I believe that we have proven ourselves as a professional organization that deserves the same respect

that the Active Army receives," he said. "From our efforts and professionalism, I think the National Guard is

looked at in a much more positive light compared to the years prior to Sept. 11, 2001. I feel very proud that I have been able to serve at such a crucial time."

Sgt. Sara Minder

Like Carlock, Sgt. Sara Minder of Springfield, with Joint Force Headquarters in Springfield, watched the events of that historic day on TV while sitting in a high-school classroom.

"All I could do was sit and stare at the TV. No one in the classroom said a word," she said. "I think we were all hoping the first plane was just an accident. Seeing the second plane hit made me realize that this was intentional."

Eighteen months later, she joined the Illinois Army National Guard.

Her reason for joining had a dual-purpose. She said she wanted to be like her cousin and best friend, Jason, who was a Marine. She said she also wanted to do something after she felt the fear of her country on 9/11.

Just two months after she enlisted, Jason was killed in a helicopter accident in Iraq.

In August 2003, she left for basic training and advanced individual training, which she was pulled out of a week early for a deployment. She returned home for four days and then travelled to Iraq with the 232nd Corps Support Battalion in Springfield. She spent her 19th birthday and the first anniversary of Jason's death overseas.

While she remembers the fear she felt 10 years ago on 9/11, Minder said she hopes her service in the Illinois Army National Guard will prevent her fellow Americans from experiencing the same fear in the future.

"I feel a stronger sense of duty to my country," she said. "I do not want another generation to have to feel the fear that we felt on that day."

Chief Master Sgt. Mark Stevens

Chief Master Sgt. Mark Stevens, of Elk Grove Village, was on foreign soil 10 years ago when he heard about the terrorist attacks. He had just landed in Germany for annual training as the first sergeant with the 217th Engineering Installation Squadron attached to the 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield.

A cashier at the base exchange was the first to tell him a plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. He then watched German TV and listened to the radio to learn a second plane crashed into the South

Tower and yet another plane crashed into the Pentagon.

"(I felt) anger and rage that someone would attack America and kill innocent civilians," said Stevens, who is now assigned to the 183rd Air Operations Group in Springfield.

While he felt anger and rage, Stevens said Airmen around him were also angry, shocked and confused by the terrorist attacks. Since he joined the Illinois Air National Guard in 1985, Stevens said he had always been proud to defend his country, but after 9/11 he saw his service in a more serious light.

"I always took my military career serious, but this made it more real and important," he said. "The level of seriousness about (what) we do struck home."

Senior Master Sgt. Kim Piskacek

Senior Master Sgt. Kim Piskacek, of O'Fallon, walked into chaos when she went to work at the Office of Student Affairs at Stony Brook University on Long Island, N.Y. on that Tuesday morning.

Fellow employees gathered around the TV while the phones rang off the hook with frantic New Yorkers on the other end asking what they should do. The college president soon announced classes were cancelled and urged students not to travel toward Manhattan.

As others went back to their desks, Piskacek stayed glued to the TV.

"It fell," she told her co-workers.

"What fell?" they asked her.

"The tower," she said.

They didn't believe her. They didn't want to believe her; until they came back to the TV to witness the smoke for themselves, she said.

At the time, Piskacek was assigned to the New York Air National Guard's 105th Airlift Wing, which soon became a staging area for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross. The 105th lost two Airmen that day, one of whom she knew. Piskacek also said many 105th Airmen lost family and friends from the terrorist attacks.

It wasn't until 2004 when she said she realized how significant 9/11 was to all Americans, not just New Yorkers.

She said she was at an Air Force noncommissioned officer academy when the subject came up. She heard everyone else recall the day, just as she remembered, and said she was surprised to hear everyone was just as affected as she was.

"As New Yorkers, we didn't think of anything outside of New York City," she said. "It's so weird when you're that close to New York City and then you hear everyone else's account."

In 2004 she transferred to the Illinois Air National Guard. She then deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 with the 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield, where she is currently assigned.

Since her military career began with the Air Force in 1989, Piskacek said 9/11 brought a new meaning to her service.

"I've always been proud to serve, but Sept. 11 made it more personal," she said.

SPRINGFIELD, IL (09/07/2011)(readMedia)

Editors Note; What follows is Sgt. Charlie Helmholt's First Person Account of His Experience Responding to the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. Helmholt is an Illinois National Guard Soldier from Belleville Assigned to the 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

REFLECTION

Every generation in this country has one of those days. The day you'll always remember where you were, or what you were doing. Some of them are our nation's greatest achievements like man's first walk on the moon, and some are catastrophes like the attack on Pearl Harbor, or JFK's assassination. These days are destined for more than just pages or paragraphs in history books, they change the very fabric of what it means to be a citizen of this country.

September 11, 2001. When someone says the date we all feel it. Maybe for some that feeling is still anger, or perhaps pain or sorrow. But undoubtedly we all share the commonality of the sight of planes crashing into buildings, or seeing a charred spot in a Pennsylvanian field.

While I remember those things, for me, it really isn't any images I saw on television that I think of when someone mentions the date. When I think about that day I think mostly of the smoke, the flag and the shoe.

THE SMOKE

I was serving in the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division The Old Guard, the Army's Honor Guard, a high standard ceremonial unit used as the presidents official military escort as well as various tasks in and around Arlington National Cemetery. The Honor Guard is split between Ft. McNair, in Washington D.C., and Ft. Myer, Va., both within eyesight of the Pentagon.

I belonged to A Company, which is housed at Ft. McNair, a beautiful little peninsular base of D.C. It is surrounded by the Potomac River and is preceded by the iconic tidal basin seen laden with cherry trees and blossoms in so many photos during the spring.

That morning we took a bus across the I-395 bridge over the Potomac, to Ft. Myer in Virginia, just a few miles away.

We were in a giant building nicknamed C-hall when the crash happened, and we were close enough to hear the impact. Everyone ran outside at once, around the building, and everyone froze. The Pentagon, our countries symbolic building of military strength was alive spewing gigantic plumes of black smoke into the air.

The Pentagon is such an imposing building; it employs more than 23,000 people. It was a surreal sight. I remember the confusion, fear and anger as we loaded the bus to get back across the water.

We were stopped on the bridge going back into D.C., so we got off and ran roughly a mile-and-a-half down the tidal basin along the water that led back to Ft. McNair. We all sprinted. Each one of us silent. All the while the Pentagon bled out dark smoke just over our shoulders at only a glance away, there across the river.

THE SHOE

After securing our fort in D.C. we were loaded onto trucks and taken to the Pentagon. We had been told that since most members of our unit had security clearances we would be needed to augment the search and rescue mission inside the building.

We were briefed by firefighters on what we could expect to see; instructions were given by military brass on what we could never discuss, and we were sworn to secrecy on any sensitive material the floors or broken cabinets inside might share with us.

We were put in suits, full white garbage bag-like suits and given a civilian 3m-type gas mask. We walked under the slab of roof that hung down in front of the hole for the first time, and when we did, I could have never been prepared for what I saw.

When I describe it, I always tell people to imagine a bomb going off in a junkyard, but that's not near enough disaster. It was sheer chaos. I think before we arrived everyone hoped to be the one to find someone alive and bring them out, but when you walked in that first time all those hopes were shattered, no one could have been alive inside.

Huge support columns had to be reinforced, and in some cases built anew to keep the weight of the damaged building from collapsing. Then the arduous task of sifting through debris, separating biological remains from a jungle of twisted metal began. Many more red biohazard bags for body parts were filled than body bags with intact bodies.

There were moments during this time some of us would come together to weep during the days and weeks that followed. One memory in particular sticks with me. Just the thought of a friend fighting back tears, holding up the shoe of a young boy ,almost certainly a passenger on the plane that tore through the building just a day or two before.

THE FLAG

If I remember correctly we worked six-hour shifts around the clock for the first two weeks or so. We even slept there, on site in tents. Most of the work was hard labor moving bomb proof filing cabinets that were twisted and torn to pieces or making sense of countless office décor strewn together, mixed in with all the rest.

Then a different kind of memory jumps in my mind; I remember getting to leave for something after a few weeks, and there were people on some of the overpasses holding huge American flags over the interstates during weird times of the day. Early, like Army early when people should be sleeping or getting ready for their day.

People were coming together in a way which I'd never seen in my lifetime or have since. People volunteered to help, counselors gave us free sessions, masseuses gave massages and phone companies set up lines to call whomever for free.

In fact, what I feel most about that day is pride. Of course I'm not proud of what happened, but when I saw the huge flags over the interstate and the even bigger one on the Pentagon itself, it filled me with pride to see us come together to help one another.

I was proud to be a Soldier, in a team of Soldiers, firefighters, police or volunteers who went into wounded buildings with the sole intent to help someone they had never met only because those people live under a common flag. Some would never make it back out.

For all of our country's faults, it is still the greatest country in the world, not just because we say it is, but because we can face such hardship and prevail all the stronger. And that's what I mean when I say I remember the flag, not the colors or fabric, but the symbolism behind it. It is the representation of everyone who died that fate-filled day in September and all the days before. It's pride in men who, guessing their fate, charged the plane's cockpit, choosing to sacrifice themselves rather than be used. Its pride in the ones left behind who are strong enough to hold up our flag so that this land and the entire world will know that we will never forget and we will always prevail.

For more information, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office at 217-761-3569 or at ngilstaffpao@ng.army.mil.

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SPRINGFIELD, IL (08/31/2011)(readMedia)-- Governor Pat Quinn has ordered Illinois National Guard helicopters and troops to state active duty to assist with Vermont flood relief operations after receiving a request for assistance from the state. Approximately 95 members of the Illinois National Guard are now in Rome, N.Y., and will maintain their base of operations in the state while their helicopters fly into Burlington, Vt. From Burlington, they will be dispatched to deliver food, water and medicine to several towns in Vermont that are isolated by flooding.

"As our friends in Vermont face some of the worst flooding their state has seen in over a century, we want them to know we are here to help," Governor Quinn said. "I'm proud that the soldiers in the Illinois National Guard are able to respond so quickly to the needs of our fellow Americans. Illinois has one of the best emergency management programs in the nation and we are thankful to be able to lend a helping hand during this time of need."

The six UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, two CH-47 Chinook helicopters, pilots and crew, ground support vehicles, and command and control staff were prepositioned in New York Aug. 29 to 30 and have now received an Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) request for assistance in Vermont. The EMAC is a nationwide system through which states affected by disasters can receive additional resources.

"We are proud to help the residents of Vermont in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene," said Maj. Gen. William Enyart, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. "This again shows the dedication and professionalism of the men and women that make up the Illinois National Guard and their willingness to help their fellow Americans during a time of need."Units providing hurricane relief in Vermont include : Headquarters and Headquarters Company; 106th Aviation Battalion in Peoria and elements of Company A, 106th Aviation Battalion in Decatur; Company B, 106th Aviation Battalion in Chicago; Company C and Company D, 106th Aviation Battalion in Peoria; and 2nd Battalion, 238th General Support Aviation Battalion in Peoria.

"Through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, we're able to quickly coordinate the deployment of critical resources in response to requests from states affected by Hurricane Irene," said Jonathon Monken, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. "We are continuing to work closely with Vermont and other states to provide the assistance they need to save lives and cope with the devastation left behind by this massive storm."

Three regional coordinators from IEMA have been deployed in response to a request from the state of New York through the EMAC. They are working with the 24/7 planning section on developing plans to address hurricane response and recovery issues. New York and Vermont will reimburse Illinois for expenses related to both deployments.

U.S. Army photo by Spc. Starr Ivey, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ The Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 106th Aviation Regiment in Peoria convoy arrives at Griffiss Airfield, Rome, N.Y., Aug. 28, in support of flood operations for Hurricane Irene.

U.S. Army photo by Spc. Starr Ivey, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Pfc. Cresean J. Sweezey-Errar, of Edwardsville, a Blackhawk crew chief with the Illinois National Guard's Company A, 106th Aviation in Decatur, prepares for a flood relief mission, Aug. 30. in Rome, N.Y.

U.S. Army photo by Spc. Starr Ivey, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Two Illinois National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters in Rome, N.Y., Aug. 30 for flood relief operations.

For more information and photos, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office at ngilstaffpao@ng.army.mil.

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SPRINGFIELD, IL (08/30/2011)(readMedia)-- Col. Mark VanUs, of Springfield, the command Inspector General of the Illinois Army and Air National Guard was awarded one of the U.S. military's most prestigious awards for his 30 years of military service.

Maj. Gen. William Enyart, of Belleville, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, presented VanUs with the Legion of Merit during a staff meeting Aug. 30 at Camp Lincoln in Springfield.

VanUs, a Romeoville native, is a member of the active Army assigned to the Illinois National Guard through the National Guard Bureau. He has served as the Illinois National Guard's command inspector general for the past year following his assignment as the Director of Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems at Offutt Air Base in Nebraska. He officially retired on June 30, but was recalled by the United States Strategic Command to active duty to serve an additional tour.

The Legion of Merit is awarded to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States or a friendly foreign nation who has distinguished himself or herself through exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.

The Legion of Merit is the U.S. military's sixth highest award. A few other notable Legion of Merit recipients include current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Michael Mullen, U.S. Sen. John McCain, British Gen. Bernard Montgomery, French Gen. Charles De Gaulle, and Polish officers Col. Stanislaw Wozniak, Gen. Franciszek Gagor, and Lt. Gen. Wladyslaw Anders.

photo 1) U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael Camacho, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs/ Maj. Gen. William Enyart, of Belleville, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard pins Col. Mark VanUs of Springfield, the Command Inspector General for the Illinois Army and Air National Guard with the Legion of Merit Aug. 30 at Camp Lincoln in Springfield.

photo 2) U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael Camacho, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs/ Col. Mark VanUs, of Springfield, the Command Inspector General for the Illinois Army and Air National Guard shakes hands with Maj. Gen. William Enyart, of Belleville, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard after receiving the Legion of Merit Aug. 30 at Camp Lincoln in Springfield.

photo 3) U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael Camacho, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs/ Col. Mark VanUs of Springfield, the Command Inspector General for the Illinois Army and Air National Guard accompanied by his wife, Vicky, speaks to senior leaders of the Illinois National Guard after receiving the Legion of Merit, one of the U.S. military's most prestigious awards for his 30 years of military service Aug. 30 at Camp Lincoln in Springfield.

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Waterloo, IA - Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) wrote to President Obama urging him to take action on veterans' unemployment.  Rep. Braley's letter called on the president to include business tax incentives to hire veterans in any upcoming jobs plan.

"In today's difficult job market, one in four of our post-9/11 veterans is currently unemployed," said Rep. Braley.  "After their distinguished service to our country, we should do all we can to help our veterans find employment in their civilian lives."

Last week, Congressman Braley introduced the Combat Veterans Back to Work Act which exempts businesses from paying the employer's share of the Social Security tax for up to one year through December 31, 2012 - if they hire current members of the National Guard or Reserve, or any veteran who has returned from deployment within the last 18 months and is currently unemployed. Employers who keep eligible employees on the payroll for 52 consecutive weeks will receive an additional $1,000 tax credit.

Congressman Braley currently serves on the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs, and as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.  

   

A copy of the letter is pasted below and available here:  http://go.usa.gov/ktx

 

 

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Dear President Obama,

 

I write today with increasing concern over unemployment in our veteran community.

 

As you know, unemployment among veterans in general, and particularly post-9/11 veterans, is far outpacing the national unemployment levels.  I appreciate your attention to this issue in your August 16, 2011 address in Peosta, IA, and your commitment to connect our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with businesses who can put their talents to work.

 

As one way to pursue this goal, I recently introduced the Combat Veterans Back to Work Act to encourage employers to hire recently returned veterans.  This legislation would provide a one-year payroll tax exemption to employers for each veteran they hire, and offer an additional $1000 credit per veteran after 52 weeks of employment to encourage long-term employment.  My legislation also extends the credit to our citizen soldiers in the National Guard and Reserve who have been called on to make substantial sacrifices in our post-9/11 military responses.

 

As Ranking Member of the House Veterans Affairs Economic Opportunity Subcommittee, I am committed to finding ways to help our veterans once they leave the service, and helping them put their valuable experience to work to improve their communities.  As such, I urge you to include business tax incentives for hiring veterans in any upcoming job creation proposals.

 

I look forward to your response, and thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

Bruce Braley

   

cc: Secretary Eric Shinseki, Department of Veterans Affairs

 

 

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SPRINGFIELD, IL (08/28/2011)(readMedia)-- As approximately 160 members of the Illinois Army National Guard travel to New York for hurricane relief operations, approximately 1,000 Illinois National Guardsmen are being released from duty. The additional 1,000 Soldiers and Airmen were activated Aug. 27 to prepare and train for hurricane relief efforts, but federal officials have deemed their services no longer necessary in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

"This mission is indicative of what the National Guard has done for 375 years," said Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. "These servicemembers are men and women who live next door to you and who put aside everything in their civilian lives to help others in need."

The Illinois National Guard is sending six UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, two CH-47 Chinook helicopters, pilots and crew, ground support vehicles, and command and control staff to New York to help with relief efforts.

Units departed for New York to provide hurricane relief include : Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 106th Aviation Battalion in Peoria and elements of Company A, 106th Aviation Battalion in Decatur; Company B, 106th Aviation Battalion in Chicago; Company C and Company D, 106th Aviation Battalion in Peoria; and 2nd Battalion, 238th General Support Aviation Battalion in Peoria. An advanced party of approximately 20 Soldiers from the 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago also left for the East Coast.

Fifteen National Guard units in 13 Illinois communities had their Soldiers and Airmen report to duty and will now release those citizen-Soldiers to return to their civilian lives.

Units reporting for preparation and training for hurricane relief and now releasing their Soldiers include : 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago, 710th Area Support Medical Company in North Riverside, Company C, 33rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion in Carbondale, 232nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion in Springfield, 1544th Transportation Company in Paris, 1844th Transportation Company in Quincy, 631st Engineer Company in Lawrenceville, 3625th Maintenance Company in North Riverside, 933rd Military Police Company in Fort Sheridan, 33rd Military Police Battalion in Bloomington, 333rd Military Police Company in Freeport, 405th Brigade Support Battalion in North Riverside, Company B, 405th Brigade Support Battalion in Crestwood, Company A, 405th Brigade Support Battalion in Streator and 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria.

The 1,000 additional Soldiers will remain at their respective units until Monday afternoon to unpack gear, clean and put away equipment and prepare to return to normal day-to-day activities.

"I am proud of our Soldiers and Airmen," Enyart said. "From plans with family to work and college commitments, these troops continue to show their selfless service and prove why we are one of the greatest organizations in the world."

For more information, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office at ngilstaffpao@ng.army.mil

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SPRINGFIELD, IL (08/28/2011)(readMedia)-- Out of the 10,000 Soldiers in the Illinois Army National Guard, less than 700 Soldiers are active duty National Guardsmen. The rest are part-time Soldiers that attend drill weekends once a month, perform two-week annual training periods and work-full time civilian jobs or attend college.

Citizen-Soldier, weekend warrior, and in the past the State Militia. These are all terms used to describe the oldest component of the Armed Forces of the United States and one of the nation's longest-enduring institutions ... the National Guard.

For some Soldiers, service has been taken to a new level. These Soldiers serve, not only their country, but their community and the state. From holding important positions in state and federal government to being elected to serve in a county position, there are National Guard Soldiers striving to serve others.

"Citizen-Soldiers are not only committed to protecting others but to serve as well," said Capt. Jonathon Monken of Chatham.

Monken, an Iraq war veteran, has been with the Illinois Army National Guard since July 2007, and is assigned to Joint Force Headquarters in Springfield as the Intergovernmental Affairs and Plans officer.

In his civilian job, he was recently appointed the director of Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

"I swore to defend, as a Soldier and civilian," said Monken.

In both roles there are similar responsibilities.

"Principles of leadership don't change," explained Monken. "It's a great deal of team work and discipline. Though the military and civilian world is different, we work well together. We understand the mission, our capabilities and understand each other."

Maj. Tammy Duckworth, of Hoffman Estates, is another Soldier who has been to war defending the freedoms she swore to protect. But she is more than just a Soldier. She is someone who overcame the odds after being severely wounded in Iraq and continued to serve the military and the public.

"Being a citizen-Soldier is the deepest commitment to the nation," said Duckworth. "It is a way to give something back, which I wanted to do when I returned."

In early 2009 Duckworth was appointed as the Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C; a position she recently resigned to pursue even greater aspirations. After her resignation, she announced plans to run for Congress.

"I wanted to set the example for what can be done no matter what has happened to you," said Duckworth.

Duckworth has been a member of the Illinois Army National Guard since 1996.

The National Guard has seen the nature of its mission change, with more frequent call-ups since September 2001.

"People called us weekend warriors and never thought of us as front line Soldiers," explained Col. Tony Libri, of New Berlin, who recently retired from the Illinois Army National Guard after 30 years wearing the uniform.

"Now half of the nation's Army is made up of National Guard Soldiers," Libri said.

When Libri retired he was part of Joint Force Headquarters in Springfield. However, Libri continues to serve his community as the Sangamon County Circuit Clerk, a position he also held while serving as a part-time Soldier with the Illinois Army National Guard and through a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan.

"Being a citizen-Soldier taught me to be a strategic thinker and a better elected official," Libri said.

As a life-long public servant, Libri has a lot of experience helping others. Libri was the senior mentor to the Afghan National Police and commander of the Police Mentoring Teams in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2009. He also helped the Hungarian Army get into the United Nations in 1997 on a deployment to Bosnia, Hungary and Croatia.

One of his greatest accomplishments came when he helped establish an all boys orphanage in Afghanistan.

"I swore an oath in the military to defend and now I continue that oath by serving the people," Libri said.

Another Soldier has used his position with the Illinois Army National Guard to educate the public on how to help veterans returning home from deployment.

Capt. Dan Grant, of Springfield, is the Inter-Governmental Officer with Joint Force Headquarters in Springfield. He works on interagency projects within Illinois and abroad, such as the Illinois National Guard's state partnership with Poland. His service however goes beyond just the military interaction.

Grant was also the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs for two years before recently deciding to pursue a Master's Degree in Business Administration with Harvard University Business School.

"I'm able to serve my country and assist other countries in establishing systems to serve their returning troops," said Grant. "At the same time I am able to preserve a career outside the service doing something that I love - supporting our own troops as they return from harm's way."

A 2002 West Point graduate, Grant has seen what a war can do to Soldiers.

"West Point helps prepare you for the military and civilian life ahead of you."

From Ballad to Tikrit, from force protection to ordnance collection and disposal, he has seen his training come full circle.

"Deployments are the time when you put it all together and you pour everything into your mission," Grant said. "It's where you go from theory to practice."

Serving one's country is a service to others. From defending freedoms abroad to defending the freedoms at home, citizen-Soldiers will always be here.

"The military teaches us invaluable lessons and values," said Grant. "From the ethic of service that we are taught, to putting the mission first; our time in the service carries us much further in life, regardless of where we go."

Photo 1Photo courtesy of Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs/ The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs have had three well-known veterans serve as director in recent years. (From left to right) Illinois Army National Guard Capt. Dan Grant of Springfield served as director from February 2009 to August 2011; Illinois Army National Guard Maj. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates served from December 2006 to February 2009; and just recently Army veteran Erica Borggren of McHenry was appointed to replace Grant who resigned to further his career at Harvard University Business School.

Photo 2: Photo by Spc. Brian Vorce, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Illinois Army National Guard Maj. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates speaks at the statue unveiling June 18 in Mount Vernon. A statue sharing her likeness was uncovered at the ceremony.

Photo 3: Photo submitted by Capt. Jonathon Monken/ Illinois Army National Guard Capt. Jonathon Monken of Chatham (middle) talks to Gov. Pat Quinn (right), Phil Anello with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) (left) and Illinois State Representative John Bradley (back left) while assisting with flood response efforts in Olive Branch this spring. Monken, IEMA Director, was demonstrating the capabilities of the IEMA mobile command center during the flooding in southern Illinois.

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

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SPRINGFIELD, IL (08/27/2011)(readMedia)-- Approximately 160 members of the Illinois Army National Guard will depart for New York to train for possible hurricane relief operations on the east coast. An additional 1,000 Illinois National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are reporting to their respective units to prepare and train for hurricane relief efforts.

The Illinois National Guard is sending six UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, two CH-47 Chinook helicopters, pilots and crew, ground support vehicles and operators, and command and control staff.

Units departing for New York that will prepare to provide hurricane relief include Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 106th Aviation Battalion, in Peoria and elements of Company A, 106th Aviation Battalion in Decatur; Company B, 106th Aviation Battalion in Chicago, and Company C and Company D, 106th Aviation Battalion in Peoria.

Units reporting for preparation and training for hurricane relief include the 108th Sustainment Brigade in Chicago, 710th Area Support Medical Company in North Riverside, Company C, 33rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion in Carbondale, 232nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion in Springfield, 1544th Transportation Company in Paris, 1844th Transportation Company in Quincy, 631st Engineer Company in Lawrenceville, 3625th Maintenance Company in North Riverside, 933rd Military Police Company in Fort Sheridan, 33rd Military Police Battalion in Bloomington, 333rd Military Police Company in Freeport 405th Brigade Support Battalion in North Riverside, Company B, 405th Brigade Support Battalion in North Riverside, Company A, 405th Brigade Support Battalion in North Riverside and 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria.

"Time and time again, our Soldiers are ready, willing and able to join the effort to protect our fellow Americans during a natural disaster," said Maj. Gen. William L. Enyart the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. "This year alone we've assisted with the severe winter storm in early February and flood relief efforts in southern Illinois and South Dakota this spring. I am extremely proud to lead these dedicated men and women."

The Illinois National Guard elements that are leaving for training in New York will depart from their respective unit locations in Illinois in two stages on Saturday and Sunday. The other units will continue to train at their facilities and will only deploy if needed.

For more information, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office at ngilstaffpao@ng.army.mil

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