CHICAGO - September 11, 2009. In remembrance of the attacks just eight years ago, Governor Pat Quinn joined with Gold Star families for a ceremony this morning and the unveiling of the Portrait of a Soldier memorial exhibition. Governor Quinn also issued a proclamation commemorating September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.
“Today, as we remember those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, it is fitting that we honor our servicemembers and their families,” said Governor Quinn. “I am honored to be joined today by Gold Star Families whose sons and daughters have lost their lives in the Global War on Terror and are Illinois’ true heroes.”
The memorial exhibition, which has been viewed by thousands of people in more than 45 cities and towns throughout Illinois, is a series of hand-drawn portraits of more than 220 Illinois men and women who have died in service to our country since Sept.11, 2001.
Governor Quinn and Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Dan Grant were joined by members of Gold Star families including: Clinton Crackel, father of Army SSG Alexander Crackel (North Aurora); Jose Vazquez, father of Army SSG Jason Vazquez (Chicago); Jim Frazier, father of Air Force SSG Jacob Frazier (St. Charles); Bill Wolfe, father of Marine Lance Cpl Anthony Mihalo (Naperville); Gary Patriquin, father of Army CPT Travis Patriquin (Lockport); Elie Bitton, father of Army CPL Albert Bitton (Chicago); and Bill Harris, father of Army SGT Joshua Harris (Forest Park).
“We are proud to honor the Illinois servicemembers who gave their lives in the Global War on Terror after Sept. 11, 2001 through the Portrait of a Soldier exhibition, just as we honor and reflect upon the lives of all those who perished in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001,” Director Grant said.
Artist Cameron Shilling of Mattoon drew the first portrait 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.
The Skyway Concession Company also joined Governor Quinn to present a $5,000 donation to the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund. The Illinois Military Family Relief Fund provides needs-based financial grants to the families of deployed Illinois servicemembers facing financial hardship.
To date the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund has distributed $10 million and approved funds for more than 18,700 applications from Illinois military families.
Governor Quinn was also joined by Sgt. Patrick Johnson, a Palatine police officer who returned from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan in August, and his wife Sharon, received a $2,000 grant from the fund.
“The Illinois Military Family Relief Fund is an easy way for people across Illinois to express their appreciation for the families of those who serve,” Governor Quinn said.
Director Grant added appreciation for the donation on behalf of military families like the Johnsons: “The Illinois Military Family Relief Fund has distributed $10 million as a result of generous donations, and approved funds for almost 19,000 applications from Illinois military families. Under Governor Quinn’s leadership, the fund has served as a successful model that has been duplicated in many other states nationwide.”
Col. Thomas Purple, deputy commander of the 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and Fernando Redondo, CEO, Skyway Concession Company also participated in the press conference.