SPRINGFIELD — Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn joined with Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Illinois Adjutant General Randal Thomas, and families of the 52 Illinois service members who have been killed in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom to unveil a memorial honoring Illinois’ fallen heroes.
The “Global War on Terrorism Memorial” - commissioned by Gov. Blagojevich on Veterans’ Day last year - will be on temporary display at the Illinois State Fair and Capitol Rotunda before moving to its permanent location in the Illinois Military Museum at Camp Lincoln in October.
The ceremony included a posting of colors, reading of the names of the fallen heroes and playing of “Taps” by a member of the U.S. Army Band. The State Fair honored veterans on Sunday.
“The 52 Illinois service members we honor with this memorial came from diverse backgrounds and all corners of the state, but were bound together by an unselfish sense of duty,” Quinn said.
The memorial is believed to be the first of its kind in Illinois. Fifty men and two women died in Afghanistan or Iraq between November, 2001, and August, 2004. They served in the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force, and included members of the Illinois National Guard.
“The people whose names are written on this plaque gave their lives so that millions of other people – millions of strangers whose names they never knew – could live their lives in freedom,” Blagojevich said.
“In January, I toured the frontlines in Iraq, spent New Year’s Eve with our troops in Qatar and dined with troops in a Kuwaiti mess hall. I was impressed and humbled by the dedication they displayed to building democracy in dangerous conditions,” Quinn said. “This zeal for freedom is at the core of our character and today we pay solemn tribute to those who gave their ‘last full measure of devotion’ so that freedom-loving people everywhere may flourish.”
Tens of thousands of Illinois residents are serving in the armed forces across the globe, including 5,414 Illinois National Guard members and reservists on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.