CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today was joined by local students to light the state of Illinois’ Christmas tree and launch the annual Illinois Heroes Holiday Card Drive. The Governor encouraged students from across the state to take part in the annual drive by making holiday cards for servicemembers at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, Md. Governor Quinn will personally deliver the cards during a visit to troops at WRNMMC later this year. Today’s launch is part of Governor Quinn’s commitment to support the men and women who have served our nation.
“The Illinois Heroes Holiday Card Drive is about making sure that our servicemembers receive a warm reminder of how much we love and support them,” Governor Quinn said. “We can never thank our soldiers enough for the sacrifices they have made to keep us safe and secure our freedom. Though great distances may separate us, they will never be far from our hearts and they are always in our prayers.”
This year will mark the ninth time that Governor Quinn has visited Illinois troops and their families for Christmas. For the previous eight years, Governor Quinn traveled to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Germany, which is the largest American hospital outside of the United States. Since many servicemembers have returned home since the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Governor Quinn will be visiting the WRNMMC this year.
Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Borggren and servicemembers from across the state also joined the Governor at the tree lighting ceremony.
“Holidays spent away from home are just one of the many sacrifices our servicemembers make to protect us,” Director Borggren said. “While we want to do everything we can to support them throughout the year, we know it means so much for a servicemember to receive a ‘touch of home’ during the holidays to let them know how much they are appreciated. As we gather with our loved ones to celebrate the holiday season, we encourage the people of Illinois to keep our servicemembers in their thoughts and prayers.”
Also in attendance were several Gold Star families, who hung ornaments in memory of their sons and daughters on the tree. The choir from Skinner West Elementary School in Chicago performed during the tree lighting ceremony and presented their cards for Governor Quinn to take to Bethesda.
Governor Quinn has always made our veterans, servicemembers and their families one of his top priorities. He championed numerous veterans’ causes during his service as Lieutenant Governor and Illinois Treasurer. In 2011, Governor Quinn launched the Welcome Home Heroes program to support Illinois servicemembers seeking homeownership. In 2012, the Governor proposed in his State of the State address and signed into law the Hiring Veterans Tax Credit. The law provides a significant additional tax credit to businesses who hire unemployed veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, to both help businesses create jobs and give those jobs to the people who have sacrificed so much for our state and our country.
Earlier this year, Governor Quinn launched the newest Veterans Cash instant lottery ticket, a $2 ticket with all proceeds going to benefit Illinois veterans’ organizations. Since the Governor first championed and launched the program in 2006, Veterans Cash has awarded more than $11 million in grants to more than 210 veterans’ organizations statewide. The Illinois Lottery’s Veterans Cash game is the first lottery game in the United States to earmark 100 percent of net proceeds to veterans.
For more information on how to participate in the Illinois Heroes Holiday Card Drive, please visit www.OperationHomefront.org.