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Illinois veterans:

Service in the past to preserve the future

By Sen. Adeline Geo-Karis, 31st District       Send a link to a friend

[NOV. 11, 2004]  One of the greatest challenges facing Illinois, as well as other states, is the shifting nature of both military conflict and the composition of the military forces themselves.

As evidenced by the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. military forces remain unchallenged in their ability to conduct successful military operations. In both conflicts, the American military quickly defeated an opposing military force, leading to the rapid collapse of brutal regimes that had persecuted their own citizens for years.

It is estimated that approximately 150,000 National Guard and Reserve members are currently on active duty, with approximately 55,000 deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and the surrounding regions. National Guard and Reserve troops constitute up to 40 percent of the military forces in Iraq.

The needs of these 21st-century soldiers are significantly different from those of the inductees who constituted the majority of veterans during the 20th century. Illinois is taking steps to adjust to those changing needs, but more changes will be required in the coming years.

Additionally, one of Illinois' greatest challenges is meeting the needs of an aging veteran population. Illinois must ensure that the services and benefits the state offers satisfy the fundamental needs of 20th-century veterans.

This year Illinois has adopted several legislative measures that serve the state's veterans, as well as active Illinois military personnel.

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Today's military recruits must often interrupt a civilian career when they are deployed overseas. Legislation adopted this year reflects some of those changing needs -- the importance of protecting service people from lost opportunities on the job, increased costs for their own businesses and increased costs as a result of having their education interrupted. Illinois will need to continue to adapt to those needs.

Recognizing the selfless bravery of those men and women killed in the line of duty, the General Assembly has actively worked to accommodate the needs of veterans' families who are recovering from the loss of their loved one. Several laws have been passed this year that provide compensation to the families of deceased veterans who actively fought in the Global War on Terrorism.

America's military is changing, and Illinois must change with it in order to assure that services and benefits serve the needs of state veterans. The Senate Republican Caucus deeply appreciates the sacrifices that American veterans and active military personnel have made, and continue to make, so that we can enjoy freedom.

Our members will continue to work to advance veterans' issues and ensure that the needs of all Illinois servicemen and servicewomen are fulfilled.

[State Sen. Adeline Geo-Karis, 31st District]

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