Lawmakers call on veterans to volunteer in social advocacy program
By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois lawmakers are joining a call to urge the federal government to ensure that the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from World War II be offered a state funeral.
Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, advanced Senate Joint Resolution 50 out of the Senate State Government Committee on Wednesday with unanimous support.
Per the resolution, Charles H. Coolidge of Tennessee and Hershel Woodrow Williams of West Virginia are the only two living Medal of Honor recipients who served in World War II.
The Medal of Honor is the most prestigious personal military decoration recognizing acts of valor by U.S. military service members. Per the resolution, it was awarded to 353 Americans during World War II.
“Designating a state funeral when the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient dies would be a wonderful way for the American people to unite and honor all 16 million soldiers, sailors, and airmen who served in our Armed Forces from 1941 to 1945,” according to the resolution.
Manar said it’s also important to bridge generational gaps.
“An understanding of the Greatest Generation’s immeasurable sacrifice is something that all Americans share, and it’s something that has the power to unify Americans in a way that transcends our current divisions,” Manar said in a news release. “It would block out the political noise of the day and bring us together in reverence of the intrepid Americans who fought and died to ensure that the United States remains a beacon of hope and a blueprint for democracy across the globe.”
A group of lawmakers joined representatives of the Illinois Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, at a Statehouse news conference Wednesday to encourage veterans to volunteer for the program.
CASA belongs to a network of 951 community-based programs that “recruit, train and support citizen-volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in courtrooms and communities,” per the group’s website. It has 47 programs across Illinois.
The lawmakers called on Illinois veterans to volunteer 10 hours per week to the program.
Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, an Oswego Democrat and Marine veteran, chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee. She said she is a part of a number of veterans groups that are excited to volunteer.
“I think the reason why veterans are uniquely skilled to answer the call to help these children is because veterans are mission-driven. You give them the mission, and they will strive to succeed,” she said. “And in this case we need to succeed in helping these children that have suffered abuse and neglect that are in the system, and we need to make sure that they are well taken care of.”
She said the call for veterans is statewide.
Volunteers must be 21 years of age and be able to pass a background check. They must also complete a 40-hour training course which is paid for by the organization.
Information on how to volunteer can be obtained at www.illinoiscasa.org. Prospective volunteers can contact the organization via the contact link at the bottom of the page.