Governor Pat Quinn today honored the 290th birthday of the Illinois National Guard, saluting its members who embody the democratic ideal of the citizen soldier. The governor also thanked the families and employers who sacrifice so they can serve.
"For 290 years, sons and daughters from Illinois have answered the call of duty, both on the homefront and in battle zones far away," Governor Quinn said. "We have a duty to honor the thousands of Illinois National Guard servicemembers have made the ultimate sacrifice, including 34 killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today and every day, they are in our thoughts and prayers."
The Illinois National Guard has dual missions. The state mission, under the governor's command, is to respond to domestic emergencies in Illinois or elsewhere through cooperative agreements between states. The federal mission is to go into combat or respond to federal emergencies at the direction of the President of the United States. There are 13,000 Illinois National Guard soldiers and airmen serving at more than 50 armories, bases and training facilities across Illinois.
The birth date of the Illinois National Guard - May 9, 1723 - was determined last year after months of research by Illinois National Guard Command Historian Adriana Schroeder of Springfield. The diary of a French territorial captain, Diron Dartaguiette, was the primary source for the date. In the diary, Dartaguiette said he called together the village of Kaskaskia because he was ordered to form a company of military to defend themselves. The date the armed villagers first gathered and drilled was May 9, 1723. "When I found the diary entry, I knew I struck gold," Schroeder said. "It was the gem I had been waiting for."
"Our first muster gives us a reference point to truly understand the rich history of this organization, which we can share with our communities and our families," Brig. Gen. Daniel Krumrei, Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard said.
In addition to serving in every major United States conflict, the Illinois National Guard has conducted peacekeeping missions around the globe, including in Egypt and the Ukraine.
At the direction of the governor, Illinois National Guard members have responded to countless domestic crises in Illinois and across the nation. Since 2009, Illinois National Guard members have responded to three floods, a historic blizzard and the NATO Summit in Chicago. The Illinois National Guard has assisted other states with Hurricanes Katrina and Irene, Superstorm Sandy, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and security along the U.S. border.
The Guard has served in such diverse roles as providing security during Pope John Paul II's 1979 visit and the Chicago Bulls 1996 Championship riots, aiding victims of the 1871 Chicago Fire and 1958 Our Lady of Angels School fire, and conducting narcotics detection in the Shawnee National Forest in the 1980s.
Governor Quinn invites every Illinois resident to join the Illinois National Guard's 290th birthday celebration by supporting the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund, which aids the families of those who are called to active duty: http://www.il.ngb.army.mil/programs/imrf.aspx.