DUQUOIN – August 29, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today joined Gold Star Families and servicemembers to celebrate Veteran’s Day at the 2010 DuQuoin State Fair. The Governor unveiled the Portrait of a Soldier memorial exhibition at the Governor’s Tent and joined the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) in announcing U.S. Army Veteran Elmer Rodgers as the August 2010 Veteran of the Month.
“We must never forget our servicemen and servicewomen who have bravely and selflessly given their lives defending our freedom,” said Governor Quinn. “I am honored to be joined today by Gold Star Families, and I am humbled by their sacrifice. We remember Illinois’ true heroes, not just today but every day.”
The Portrait of Soldier Memorial, which has been viewed by thousands of people throughout Illinois, will be on display at the Governor’s Tent for the remainder of the DuQuoin State Fair. The exhibition 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.
Governor Quinn joined IDVA Assistant Director Sergio Estrada in presenting Army veteran Elmer Rodgers, 88, of Marion, with the August 2010 Veteran of the Month Award. Rodgers, a World War II Veteran, is a retired coal miner. He is active in service projects benefitting Veterans for more than 35 years through his work with American Legion Post 645 and VFW Post 1301 in Marion.
“Elmer Rodgers has been an advocate for fellow veterans in Southern Illinois for more than 35 years and we are proud to honor him with the Veteran of the Month Award at the DuQuoin State Fair, and proud to honor veterans from Southern Illinois and throughout the region today,” said IDVA Director Dan Grant.
During today’s celebration, Governor Quinn and Assistant Director Estrada were joined by Gold Star families including Betty and Clarence Richards, parents and Ruth Ridgely, Aunt of Army Sgt. Kenneth L. Ridgley of Olney and Daniel and Marla Uhles, parents of Marine L Cpl Drew Uhles of DuQuoin.
Artist Cameron Shilling 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 gave the sketch to Spc. Neely’s parents to convey his sympathy for their loss. In October 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.
Also on Veteran’s Day at the DuQuoin State Fair, a Helping Our Hometown Heroes benefits resource fair was hosted by IDVA. The Fair will run until Sept. 3.