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For decades, mothers who have lost sons or daughters in military service have been recognized annually on Gold Star Mother's Day the last Sunday in September.
On Monday, the other surviving relatives of deceased military personnel got official recognition in Illinois on the first Gold Star Families Day. The day was observed during a ceremony in the Capitol.
The event was the result of legislation passed unanimously in the General Assembly last spring to bring recognition to people who are sometimes forgotten when a member of the military is killed.
“Gold Star families all suffered the loss,” said James Frazier, whose son Jacob, a staff sergeant in the Illinois Air National Guard, was killed in Afghanistan in 2003. “He was the eldest of five children. His four siblings suffered that loss just as badly as his mother and I did.”
The tradition of using gold stars to designate homes where someone has died during military service goes back to World War I. Homes with members serving in the military flew flags that had a star for each member. A blue star designated someone serving in the military, while a gold star represented someone who had died in the line of duty.
It wasn’t until 1936, though, that Congress declared the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mother's Day. The legislation approved by the Illinois General Assembly designates the following Monday as Gold Star Families Day. (Read more from Doug Finke's article at The Springfield Journal-Register here.)

Find out more about the "Gold Star" programs by clicking on the respective links:

Announces hiring of Stuart Layne as Bicentennial Executive Director

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Bruce Rauner today signed Executive Order 2016-11 to create the new Illinois Bicentennial Commission and the Governor's Office of the Illinois Bicentennial to lead the planning for the celebration of the state's 200th anniversary.

"The Illinois Bicentennial is an incredible opportunity to celebrate Illinois' contributions to the country and the world and plan for our next 200 years of innovation and achievements," said Governor Rauner. "I look forward to the commission's recommendations on how best to move forward to ensure that this will be a celebration to remember."

Executive Order 2016-11 creates the Governor's Office of the Illinois Bicentennial. The Bicentennial Office, with administrative support from the Governor's Office and other state agencies, will develop the strategic vision for the bicentennial celebration and work with the public and private sectors to implement that vision. (read more here.)
Salem Chamber of Commerce ground-breaking for a local business.
State Representative John D. Cavaletto (R-Salem) has been recognized as a Guardian of Small Business by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) for his "strong and consistent support of the state's job creators in the Illinois Legislature." (Read more here.)
Photo provided by Dennis Rosenberger, Editor, Salem Times- Commoner.
This weekend I was honored to participate in the first 9/11 Memorial Service and Day in the Park at Bryan Memorial Park organized by the Salem Fire Protection District.The service began at 8:30 a.m.
with a message from a fire department chaplain and the Marion County Fire Service Honor Guard. The Pana Fire Department provided their World Trade Center display.

Following the services, there was a "remembrance walk" simulating the 110 stories (.9 mile) of the World Trade Center and a firefighter water fight, hose roll, and bucket brigade competitions. There was also a children's activities including a firefighter obstacle challenge and hose line obstacle course.

Thank you to the firefighters, emergency medical service (EMS) personnel and support staff, and the many people who came out to support this program! We hope this becomes an annual tradition for our community.

We Will NEVER Forget!

Four new laws take effect.

The new state laws affecting Illinois hunting and fishing opportunities center on youth trapping; bow hunting for catfish; and simplified landowner hunting permit procedures for deer and wild turkey.

The landowner bill, SB 3003, affects owners and resident tenants who control at least 40 acres of Illinois land. Under the amendment to the Wildlife Code, hunters enjoying this status will be able to apply for and receive a deer permit, a turkey permit, or (for the first time) a combination deer/turkey permit that will cover both types of game. As with the separate landowner deer and landowner turkey permits issued in previous years, the permits will be issued without fee. Members of hunting clubs, hunting partnerships, and hunting cooperatives are included if the group owns its land. After unanimous approval by the Illinois House last spring by a vote of 112-0-0, SB 3003 was signed into law by Governor Rauner as P.A. 99-869.

For more information about outdoors recreation opportunities, click here to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
For the third year in a row, St. Elmo Public Library District has had the highest number of student participants in State Rep. John Cavaletto's Summer Reading Club! Fifteen libraries in eleven library districts participated this year representing 13 communities around the 107th District including: Altamont, Brownstown, Centralia, Effingham, Farina, Greenville, Ramsey, Salem, Shumway, Smithboro, St. Elmo, Vandalia and Vernon.

“Congratulations to St. Elmo and a big Thank You to all of the library directors who work hard to encourage children to read,” said Rep. Cavaletto, a retired teacher, coach and administrator for 38 years. “The Summer Reading Club encourages 1st through 5th graders to continue reading throughout their summer vacation and encourages children to read everything from poetry and biographies to science, nature and mysteries. I believe reading exposes young people to the world and helps develop their reasoning and critical thinking abilities,” added Cavaletto.

The St. Elmo Public Library District now has 3 libraries—St. Elmo Public Library, Beecher City Branch Library and Brownstown Branch Library and serves over 6,000 people. There are over 50,000 books on the shelves and up-to-date public access computers. In addition the libraries subscribe to nearly 30 magazines and local newspapers. Also available for checkout are DVDs and audio books. Each library has a children’s area and offers various programs and crafts year round. The District also belongs to Southern Illinois Libraries on the Go which gives access to many eBooks.

St. Elmo is in the heart of the Loudon oil pool which was the 2nd largest oil pool in the contiguous United States, has two railroads, agriculture, and had an airport where Charles Lindbergh landed to visit a friend who lived in St. Elmo. It was also the home for the Kanatzer bloodhounds.
New private foundation will cooperate with State of Illinois to preserve threatened fairgrounds.

As the Illinois State Fair of 2016 moved towards its scheduled close on Sunday, August 21, Gov. Bruce Rauner applauded the creation of a private foundation to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure that supports Illinois’ largest summer gathering.

“The State Fair is the best place for Illinois to show off its products and accomplishments, and to ensure we can continue to do that, so that our children and grandchildren can continue on with this same tradition, we must preserve the State Fair experience and the legacy of its entertainment for generations to come,” said Governor Rauner. “A foundation is the best way to ensure that the fairgrounds get the upgrades and renovations necessary for these important assets. And it allows the fairgrounds to be less reliant on state money while putting no additional costs on the taxpayers. This is a win for taxpayers and the agricultural community as a whole.”

With an estimated $180 million in deferred maintenance costs, the more than 190 buildings of the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield and the DuQuoin State Fair in Southern Illinois’ DuQuoin will require massive rebuilding to maintain a safe and secure fairgoing experience. Electrical, paint, plumbing, roofing, and structural repairs must be done on buildings that were built as long ago as 1892.

Gov. Rauner has led the push to create the new Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, announced on Sunday, August 14. Established by private-sector leaders of the agricultural community, the foundation will raise private funding and coordinate the revitalization and improvement of both fairgrounds. It is expected that large donors may receive recognition for their generosity in the form of sponsorship opportunities that will be seen by the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors to the Fairs and their grounds. Creation of the Foundation was the culmination of a push to save the State Fairgrounds led by Rep. Tim Butler and by former Rep. Raymond Poe, both of Springfield. Former Rep. Poe is currently the Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the State agency with overall responsibility over the State fairgrounds and state fair infrastructure.