Durbin Meets With Illinois Veteran & Caregiver Who Will Be His Guests For The State Of The Union

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] –U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with retired Air Force Captain Anthony “Tony” Simone and his wife, Andrea who will be his guests for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address later this evening. Durbin first met Captain Simone and Andrea in 2013 at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Maywood, Illinois, where Captain Simone receives medical care and Andrea is a member of the caregivers community. Captain Simone and Andrea will also attend the Secretary of the Senate’s dinner immediately preceding the President’s address. 


“I am proud to have not one, but two distinguished guests from Illinois to the State of the Union: retired United States Air Force Captain Tony Simone and his wife and caregiver Andrea,” said Durbin.  “Captain Simone showed great courage on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan. But his sacrifices - and the sacrifices made by his family - didn’t end after his deployments. After Captain Simone was wounded in action, and returned home, he and his wife, Andrea, continue to show great courage every day that they work together on his recovery. I am humbled and honored to have Captain Simone and Andrea Simone join me as part of this special moment in our nation’s history.”


A Photo of Senator Durbin meeting with Captain Simone and Andrea Simone are available HERE.


B-roll of Senator Durbin meeting with Captain Simone and Andrea Simone is available for TV Stations HERE.

Durbin has invited an Illinois servicemember or veteran who has served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as his guests to the State of the Union since 2005 when he hosted Army Major Tammy Duckworth, now the Congresswoman from Illinois’ 8th Congressional District.

Today, Durbin also met with Congresswoman Duckworth’s guest to the State of the Union: community college student Homira Wardak. As a teenager, Homira was forced to take on the role of provider and caregiver when her mother joined the United States military and was sent to Afghanistan, leaving Homira and her siblings at home to care for themselves. These challenges strengthened Homira’s resolve to earn a college degree, and with the help of the non-profit organization One Million Degrees, she is pursuing her degree in pre-med at Harper Community College and plans to earn a bachelor’s degree upon graduation.

Durbin and Homira Wardak were also joined by Congresswoman Cheri Bustos and her guest to the State of the Union, Mike Malmstrom. Mr. Malmstrom is a Vietnam War-era Marine Corps veteran, a longtime veterans advocate, and former staff member and legal guardian for former Congressman Lane Evans. He currently is director of Bridging the Gap – Quad Cities Stand Down, which supports homeless veterans.

Captain Simone was born and raised in Jonestown, Pennsylvania, the son of Jeanne and Dave Simone, who served in the Marines. After graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a degree in aeronautical science, Captain Simone began flight training at United States Air Force (USAF) Officer Training School and received his commission. In 2007, he married Andrea – who had just graduated from Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois – at St. Patrick Church in Joliet, Illinois.

After Officer Training School, Captain Simone completed two years of military pilot training to become a combat search and rescue helicopter pilot. As a search and rescue pilot, Captain Simone flew a Pave Hawk helicopter – often behind enemy lines – to pick up injured servicemembers and civilians. As a member of the 66th Rescue Squadron, he completed two tours in Iraq – in 2008 and 2009 – and one in Afghanistan – in 2010.

In 2010, Captain Simone’s helicopter was shot down in Helmand Province while rescuing a critically wounded British Marine. Of the seven servicemembers on board the helicopter, only two survived. Captain Simone sustained a traumatic brain injury and burns in the crash, and spent six weeks in a coma. During his recovery, Captain Simone has received treatment at: Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas; the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida; Bethesda National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland; and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois.

Captain Simone continues his rehabilitation and therapy at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Maywood, Illinois. Andrea also receives support services through the caregiver support program at Hines, which is how Durbin first met the Simone family.

In August 2013, on the two-year anniversary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Family Caregiver Program, Durbin met with the Simones and other veterans and their family caregivers to hear how their lives had been impacted as a result of the program. The Family Caregiver Program provides technical, financial and practical support to family caregivers of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seriously injured in the line of duty.  It was created by a Durbin-authored provision in the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009 and the VA issued its first caregivers checks, which average between $600 and $2,200 per month, the summer of 2011.

Captain Simone and Andrea currently live in the Chicago area with their two children, Will and Avery.