Since the Revolutionary War more than 41 million Americans have served in our Nation’s military. The first Veterans were part of the Continental Army created in 1775 when colonial militias formed a common army under command of George Washington. Since then, the United States has declared war 11 times and fought in conflicts around the world.
We owe our Veterans and active service personnel a debt of gratitude. Through their sacrifice, they have safeguarded the ideals of our founding fathers, saved our nation, protected the innocent and liberated the oppressed. Each year on Veterans Day, we pay tribute to the generations of courageous men and women who served in the military.
Veterans can teach us a great deal about purpose, leadership, work ethic, and community. Their stories are inspiring and shouldn’t be relegated to a single day in November. Many of those stories have been captured through the Illinois Veteran’s Project where you can read about the Illinois men and women who served in the armed services. The Illinois State Library launched the project to create a permanent record of the names and stories of Illinois war Veterans and civilians who served our state and country during war, so that their contributions will not be forgotten.
Six current House Republican legislators have served in the U.S. Military and bring that experience to their roles in the Illinois General Assembly.
- Rep. Dan Caulkins is a veteran of the United States Army with over 22 years of service. He served in active duty from January 1966 through February 1969. He also served with the U.S. Army Reserves and National Guard. Caulkins retired as a Major with the Illinois Army National Guard.
- Rep. David Friess enlisted in the Air Force as an aircraft mechanic after graduating high school. He completed his active duty obligation and joined the Air Force Reserves as a Flight Engineer on the C-141, during which time he was stationed in Charleston, South Carolina. Desert Storm began and he found himself on numerous support missions flying into the theater to support the war effort.
- Rep. Paul Jacobs served in the United States Navy from 1965 to 1971. For the last 43 years, Dr. Jacobs has practiced optometry in several communities throughout Southern Illinois. Paul and his wife Rhoda opened Von Jakob Vineyard in Alto Pass 27 years ago. They have four grown children and ten grandchildren. Paul is a lifelong Christian conservative who seeks to bring fiscal responsibility and ethical reform to Springfield.
- Rep. Wayne Rosenthal served in the Illinois Air National Guard/United States Air Force. He was direct commissioned in 1971 and served our country for 30 years until he retired in 2001. He completed flight training as a distinguished graduate and received the Husik Memorial Trophy for the #1 aviator in the class and is currently a retired Brigadier General.
- Rep. Dan Swanson is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel. He served from 1977 until 2001. He returned to active duty in 2007-2008 when he served a tour in Iraq. In 2010 he was recalled to active duty and retired in 2013.
- Rep. Blaine Wilhour enlisted in the Illinois Army National Guard in 1999 during his junior year in high school. He served in the Illinois Guard from 1999-2005 as an Intelligence Analyst. In 2002, he deployed to Europe in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
These legislators and all the members of the House Republican Caucus remain steadfast in honoring Illinois Veterans by ensuring our heroes receive the benefits and support they have earned, and deserve. Not just on Veterans Day but every day of the year.
Ways you can honor a Veteran
- Share a Veteran’s story in the Illinois Veterans History Project by completing the Illinois Patriot Information Form and submitting it to the Illinois Secretary of State’ office.
- On December 16, participate in a wreath laying ceremony on National Wreaths Across America Day to honor Veterans.
- Connect a Veteran who may need a little support with a volunteer from Illinois Joining Forces through Operation Connect-a-Vet.
- Find out how you can volunteer for Honor Flight or Operation HerStory.