Durbin Honors Illinois National Guard As It Marks 300th Anniversary

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today delivered a speech on the Senate floor commemorating the Illinois National Guard’s 300th anniversary.  In his remarks, Durbin thanked the members of the Illinois National Guard.

“‘Always ready, always there.’  That is the motto of the Illinois National Guard.  And for three centuries, in times of war and peace, it has lived up to that promise,” Durbin began.  “As the Illinois National Guard celebrates its 300th anniversary, we thank our citizen soldiers for their service and their sacrifice.”

As he continued, Durbin recognized U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) for her service in the Illinois Air National Guard as a pilot.

“If you want to see the selfless character of the Illinois National Guard just take a look around the Senate because you'll spot my colleague, Senator Tammy Duckworth, former Lieutenant Colonel of the Illinois National Guard,” Durbin said.  “Senator Duckworth almost gave her life when the Blackhawk helicopter she was copiloting was hit by an RPG in Iraq.  It didn't diminish her will to serve our state and our nation, and I'm lucky to have her as my colleague.”

Durbin went on to share the history of the Illinois National Guard, from its first exercise in 1723 to its efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He highlighted well-known members of the Illinois National Guard, including two former presidents.

“Illinois National Guard traces its history of service to May 9, 1723, when a local militia completed its first exercise in Kaskaskia, Illinois…When the Mississippi River overflows its banks, when we're faced with other natural disasters, it's the Guard we call, and its members serve with distinction throughout history,” Durbin said. 

“Illinois’ most famous member of the [Illinois] National Guard was a man named Abraham Lincoln, who served during the Black Hawk War in the 1830s.  During the Mexican American War, a young army officer served as assistant quartermaster in the 21st Illinois Infantry Regiment.  He went on to lead the Union forces to victory in the Civil War.  His name was Ulysses S. Grant,” Durbin continued.  “Later, Illinois' 370thInfantry Regiment earned the distinction of being the only Army unit commanded mainly by African American officers in World War I.  And members of the Illinois Army National Guard served bravely in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan.”

Durbin also acknowledged the efforts of Guard members during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of January 6, 2021. 

“More recently, Illinois National Guard members were activated during the COVID-19 pandemic as the world grappled with that virus.  After the United States Capitol was attacked on January 6th, National Guard members were dispatched to help restore order,” Durbin said.  “In the most challenging times, the Illinois National Guard continues to be ‘always ready, always there.’ I'm confident they will be for many years to come.”

Durbin concluded his speech by reiterating his gratitude for Illinois National Guardsmen and their 300 years of service to the state.  

“This month, their sacrifices are remembered throughout our state, and on behalf of a grateful state and nation, I want to commend Major General Rich Neely, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, and all the men and women of the Illinois National Guard on the occasion of this momentous anniversary,” Durbin said.

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here. 

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.