SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – With the 2009 Illinois State Fair theme “An All American Fair” it is only fitting to recognize the many servicemen and servicewomen who fight to protect the freedoms that make America what it is today. With this in mind, members of the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Illinois Army National Guard have been selected to serve as Grand Marshal of the 2009 Illinois State Fair Twilight Parade.
“We wanted to choose a Grand Marshal that encapsulates the American Spirit, and who better than American Soldiers,” said Illinois State Fair Manager, Amy Bliefnick. “We should never forget that the many freedoms we are given everyday, come with a price, and we thought this would be a small, but nice way to thank our Soldiers and the many others who have given their lives for our country.”
The servicemen acting as Grand Marshal include a Commander, a First Sergeant and five decorated Soldiers who were wounded in action. The 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s deployment to Afghanistan is the largest deployment of the Illinois Guard since World War II.
The servicemen who will serve as the 2009 Twilight Parade Grand Marshal are:
Captain Lenny Williams – Commander, B. Battery, 2-122 Field Artillery of Dyer, Ind.
First Sergeant Ed Panosh – First Sergeant of A. Battery, 2-122 Field Artillery of Chicago, Ill.
Sergeant Dirk Bryant, A Battery – Received Purple Heart from Deployment of Rochelle, Ill.
Sergeant Michael Brown, B Battery – Received Purple Heart from Deployment of Chicago, Ill.
Specialist Mitch Chapman, A Battery – Received Purple Heart from Deployment of Newton, Ill.
Specialist Kayleb Cash, B Battery – Received Purple Heart from Deployment of Hindsboro, Ill.
Specialist Chad Arnold, B Battery – Injured in the Line of Duty on Deployment of Watson, Ill.
These Soldiers of the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) departed in June 2008, about 4 months ahead of the 33rd IBCT main body. While there, the Soldiers of A and B Batteries formed a Security Forces (SECFOR) team under Capt. Williams’ command. The unit performed Police Mentor duties on 32 Forward Operating Bases throughout Afghanistan. This group represents the command team and Soldiers that were wounded in action.
The command team was issued Bronze Stars and Combat Action Badges; the five other Soldiers received Purple Hearts and Combat Action Badges or Combat Infantry Badges.
The SECFOR team also remembers four Soldiers killed in action during their time in Afghanistan. Sgt. Joshua Harris of Romeoville, Staff Sgt. Jason Vasquez of Chicago, Staff Sgt. Kevin Grieco of Bartlett, and Sgt. Scott Stream of Mattoon are four of the 18 Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers killed in Afghanistan since the brigade deployed.
“We are so proud of our Illinois Soldiers and the risks they take everyday in the name of freedom,” Illinois Department of Agriculture Director, Tom Jennings said. “While this is just a small token to show them our appreciation, we hope the public will come out to the parade to show their support for these brave men and women.”
The Twilight Parade is held on Preview Day, Thursday, August 13th. It will begin at 6 p.m. at the corner of 9th Street and North Grand in Springfield, and end inside the Illinois State Fairgrounds. The Illinois State Fair runs Friday, August 14 through Sunday, August 23.