CHICAGO – May 19, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today joined Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Illinois National Guard Maj. General William Enyart to honor Illinois National Guardsmen Sgt. First Class Ryan Ahern of Glen Ellyn and Capt. Tom Bozzay of Wheaton with Silver Stars for valor. Gen. Dempsey presented the awards to Ahern and Bozzay for their heroic actions in Afghanistan in December 2009 while protecting a French military unit.
“As we honor our military heroes on Armed Services Day, we must never forget their sacrifices,” Governor Quinn said. “Sgt. First Class Ahern and Capt. Bozzay are genuine heroes and a shining example of Illinois' best.”
Ahern and Bozzay are both assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group in Chicago. While deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 and while under attack from a large enemy force, Bozzay moved under fire to provide medical care to five unit members who were seriously injured. With complete disregard for his own personal safety, Bozzay repeatedly used his body to shield wounded comrades from incoming fire.
Ahern was unconscious when the unit received fire, which wounded him and four others. After regaining consciousness from the blast, Ahern identified and fired at the enemy long enough to allow other members of the unit to reinforce their positions.
“The actions of Capt. Bozzay and Sgt. 1st Class Ahern prove they are not only heroes, but they are true protectors of this country,” said Enyart. “They were selfless and fearless without hesitating to simply do their job. They are an inspiration to me and our fellow Illinois National Guardsmen.”
The Silver Star is the third-highest military decoration that can be awarded to any branch of the United States Military. Today’s ceremony on United States Armed Services Day at the Pritzker Military Library comes as the Illinois National Guard is playing a key role in this weekend’s historic NATO summit in Chicago. On Sunday, Governor Quinn will join Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski for a ceremony honoring continued military cooperation between Poland and the Illinois National Guard.
As Memorial Day approaches, Governor Quinn is encouraging Illinois residents to honor the servicemen and servicewomen who have lost their lives fighting for democracy by supporting programs that benefit Gold Star Families, including the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund, Operation Hero Miles, and Operation Support Our Troops. For more information about programs for our Veterans, visit www.operationhomefront.org or call the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs at 217-782-6641 or 312-814-2460.