CHICAGO--- Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn was joined Sgt. Garath Mills- a British-born Illinois National Guard member-for the granting of U.S. citizenship before his unit, the 106th Aviation Battalion, departs for active duty service in Iraq. Mills was be granted citizenship two days after his 33rd birthday.
Mills emigrated to the United States from England with his mother in 1974. As a National Guard member, Mills was sent to Kuwait to serve as a truck mechanic in Operation Desert Storm. Following his service in Kuwait, Mills joined the Regular Army and became crew chief on a Black Hawk helicopter for six years.
“The highest office in out democracy is the office of citizen,” Quinn said. “We are grateful to Sgt. Mills for his patriotic service and welcome him as an American citizen today.”
Mills was sworn in by Federal Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan, an Armenian immigrant who came to the United States when he was 19-years-old.
Also joining Quinn for the ceremony was be Donald J. Monica, Interim District Director, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services; Lt. Colonel Dean Espenschied, Mills’ commanding officer; Mills’ wife of 11 years, Alberta Mills; Ivy, his 10-year-old daughter; and Dustin, his 7-year-old son.
Sgt. Mills approached Quinn with his citizenship request when Quinn visited the 106th Aviation Battalion, based out of Decatur. Quinn was promoting the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund to make sure that the National Guard unit was aware of their financial and legal benefits and rights before they left for Iraq.
"I would like to thank Lt Gov. Quinn for all his support and assistance in helping me attain my citizenship,” said Mills.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, about 38,000 troops – or 3 percent – of U.S. troops are not citizens.
Quinn has led the successful drive to set up the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund to assist the families of Illinois National Guard member and reservists who face economic hardship when the breadwinner is on active duty.
Quinn also established a website www.OperationHomeFront.org and toll-free hotline to directly assist the families of National Guard members and reservists, and to inform the public of ways to help. More than 2.5 million hits have been registered on www.OperationHomefront.org.