CHICAGO – November 11, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn celebrated Veterans Day by honoring Illinois Veterans and servicemembers at four memorial ceremonies across the state. Governor Quinn unveiled the Portrait of Soldier Memorial exhibit at Loyola University’s Water Tower Campus and in Moline. He also attended the City of Chicago Veterans Day event and the dedication of the Fallen Soldiers Tree Memorial at Illini State Park in Marsellies.
“Today we honor the servicemen and servicewomen who have selflessly given their all to protect this country,” Governor Quinn said. “On behalf of the state of Illinois, I salute and thank all of those courageous and heroic individuals who were willing to risk everything to protect our democracy.”
The Portrait of a Soldier Memorial exhibit in Chicago, which has been viewed by thousands of people throughout Illinois, 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 founded the display to honor Veterans in 2004, when artist Cameron Schilling of Mattoon drew the first portrait of a soldier in August of that year, after Army Spc. Charles Neeley, also of Mattoon, was killed in Iraq. Schilling presented the portrait to Spc. Neely’s parents. In Oct. 2005, while a student at Eastern Illinois University, Schilling committed to draw a portrait of every Illinois servicemember who has fallen during the Global War on Terror.
Also in Chicago, Governor Quinn attended a ceremony at Soldier Field to honor Veterans from all branches of the Armed Forces. The event included performances by the 85th Army Band and the U.S. Naval Academy Gospel Choir, and culminated with the placing of a wreath at the Doughboy statue, a 21-gun salute and Taps.
Governor Quinn also visited the Fallen Soldier Tree Memorial at Illini State Park. The tree memorial is dedicated to the men and women from Illinois who have died in Afghanistan or Iraq and spans two and a half acres. There are more than 200 oak trees planted for each Illinois servicemember who lost their life. This living memorial, where fallen US Armed Forces personnel can be honored in a peaceful, serene environment, was spearheaded by Illinois Department of Transportation’s Sustainable Practices Manager, Steve Massey.
“Under Governor Quinn’s leadership, Illinois will continue to be a state that honors and protects those courageous men and women who serve our country,” said Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Borggren.
Governor Quinn has a long history and continued dedication to supporting US Veterans. When Governor Quinn served as Illinois State Treasurer, he launched “Operation Homefront” during the Gulf War as a means to inform National Guard members and reservists about their rights under the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act. “Operation Homefront” has currently expanded to assist servicemembers and Veterans from all branches of the military.
Throughout his life, Governor Quinn has led a number of programs that benefit Illinois’ Veterans servicemembers and their families. Just this year:
- In August, Governor Quinn signed legislation to expand Illinois’ Let Them Rest in Peace Act. The new law prohibits protests within 300 feet of a funeral site and ensures that no protest can take place within 30 minutes before and after a funeral or memorial service; and
- In October, Governor Quinn and the Illinois Department of Employment security announced a series of job fairs across the state to help put Veterans back to work. These job fairs took place in October and November, during the week leading up to Veterans Day Weekend.
- In July, Governor Quinn signed three bills to provide more protections for Illinois’ servicemembers and help injured Veterans get the services they need. These bills prevent Illinois utilities from cutting off heat to Veterans and servicemembers during the winter months; extend the driver’s license renewal time for servicemembers returning from overseas or out-of state; and create a fund to support public service announcements to increase awareness of Veterans’ programs;
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.