State of Illinois

Office of Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                             

                      

 

Guest Editorial

New Illinois Military Family Relief Fund ready and waiting to help families of Illinois National Guard members and reservists

The horrific events of September 11 marked the beginning of the largest call-up since the Korean War of Illinois National Guard members and Reservists. Since September 11, more than 8,824 Illinois National Guard members and reservists have been called to active duty for service in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Every day, more of our colleagues, family members, and friends are called-up to serve our country in the fight against terrorism. Illinois is home to the ninth largest state National Guard in the nation. Our duty on the homefront is to support the families of our citizen-soldiers as they are called to defend our freedoms.

Recent research shows that 40 percent of National Guard and Reservist families endure a serious decline in purchasing power because the military pay of the breadwinner is substantially less than their regular salary in civilian life. Private companies often do not make up the difference, so families see as much as a 70 percent drop in household income when the husband or wife is away on active duty.

For this reason, I led the successful drive to set up the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund to assist the families of Illinois National Guard members and reservists who face economic hardship when the breadwinner is on active duty.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich-who signed the Fund into law this year-appropriated $5 million to the Military Family Relief Fund and asked that a one-time $500 grant be issued upon request to every reservist and National Guard member called to active duty.

The law establishes a check-off box on the 2003 Illinois income tax returns to enable taxpayers to voluntarily donate to a special trust fund. Administered by the Illinois Department of Military Affairs, the Military Family Relief Fund will be used to provide financial grants to families of those called to active duty who request assistance for items such as utility bills, long-distance phone bills, rent, groceries or day care.

The Military Family Relief Fund gives the Illinois Adjutant General-the highest-ranking military officer in our state-the ability to provide emergency financial grants to cash-strapped families who request assistance.

Individuals and corporations may also contribute money directly to the Military Family Relief Fund. Our goal is to raise $100,000 in the coming year.

I am continually impressed by everyday citizens who come up with creative ways to express their appreciation to our frontline troops such as the Gurrie Middle School students in LaGrange who raised $1,600 at a bake sale for the Military Family Relief Fund and the Lexington Vacation Bible Students who raised $250 for the Fund by collecting student offerings.

Even in times of unbearable suffering, Illinoisans have heeded the call for help and contributed to the Fund. A special contribution was recently made by Jim Frazier, father of 24-year-old Illinois Air National Guard member, Staff Sgt. Jacob Frazier who was killed in action on March 29, 2003 while serving in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Frazier family donated $1,500 to the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund raised at a reception in honor of Staff Sgt. Jacob Frazier, which I attended.

This unselfish effort reminded everyone present of the ultimate sacrifice made by Staff Sgt. Jacob Frazier and all Illinois soldiers who have answered the call to duty and given their lives for freedom and democracy.

President Abraham Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address, proclaimed, "From these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion." In Illinois, we can take up the cause of our fallen soldiers by supporting the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund for the families of Illinois National Guard and reservists who are on active duty and heroically carrying on the fight against terrorism.

I salute these patriots who have already organized successful fundraisers to benefit the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund and appeal to all Illinois businesses, community groups, residents and students to follow their lead, and lend a hand to the families of Illinois' citizen-soldiers. Already, the donations of committed Illinoisans have helped more than 1,044 families.

For the families of our citizen-soldiers, I have established a website
www.OperationHomeFront.org and toll-free hotline 1-866- 417-8889 to directly assist the families of National Guard members and reservists, and to inform the public of ways to help. Already, more than 1,579,688 people have visited the website.

To do something specific and concrete to support our troops, please consider sending a donation to the 'Illinois Military Family Relief Fund', P.O. Box 8889, Springfield, IL 62791. All donations are tax deductible and every penny goes to the families of Illinois National Guard members and reservists who have been called to active duty.

 

Sincerely,

                                   

 

Pat Quinn

Illinois Lieutenant Governor