Surrounded by veterans and other elected officials, Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker and Lt. Gov.-elect Juliana Stratton announced the formation of the Serving Illinois’ Heroes Committee to focus on veterans’ issues during a press conference at Waubonsee Community College’s downtown Aurora campus last week.
The committee, comprised of 19 veterans, is the second of several working groups to be announced by the Pritzker administration that feature experts in a variety of subjects — in this case, veterans’ affairs — intended to advise and guide the incoming administration.
Pritzker told reporters he believes it is “our obligation, it’s our duty” to stand up for veterans in the United States.
“We want to make sure that we’re doing the right thing for our veterans, and I know that together we will,” Pritzker said. “We have a real commitment in the state of Illinois to live up to, and as governor, I’m going to make sure that happens.”
“As chair of the transition, my top priority is making sure that our administration is responsive and ready to be responsive to the needs of every Illinoisan,” Stratton said.
“Today we are observing veterans, and honoring our veterans ... and what better way to honor the men and women who served our country than to be ready to serve them on day one of our administration?”
Officials discussed some of the topics expected to be addressed by the committee during the press conference. The committee will be chaired by U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Secretary of State Jesse White and retiring state Rep. David Harris, R-Mount Prospect.
Duckworth, who was not in attendance at the press conference, released a statement that read in part, “I know Gov.-elect Pritzker’s administration will be an important partner in our work to truly support and repay the sacrifices of our veterans and our troops in harm’s way, and I’m honored to co-chair the new administration’s Veterans Transition Committee.”
White served as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, and in the National Guard. White said the governor, as the chief executive officer of the state of Illinois, has the responsibility to make sure veterans have the tools they need to live with dignity.
“Taking care of our veterans is not a partisan issue,” White said.
Harris, who served as commanding general of the Illinois Army and Air National Guard, said he believes it is heartwarming to see that Pritzker and Stratton establish a transition team with a veterans committee to look at ways to improve services for veterans.
“Services for veterans are not a partisan issue, it’s not a Republican agenda, it’s not a Democratic agenda, there is no agenda to helping a veteran get a job, there is no partisan agenda to helping a veteran get an education, to get a home, a proper home, or to get access to the mental health care that that veteran may very well need. The only agenda is making sure our veterans ... are properly served as Illinois moves forward,” Harris said.
The committee will also include state Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, current Deputy State Treasurer Rodrigo Garcia, co-founder of Leave No Veteran Behind Eli Williamson, and CEO/founder of Bunker Labs Todd Connor.