U.S. Military

Courtesy of Shannon Bumann

When a member of the military is laid to rest, the funeral traditionally concludes with three volley shots and the playing of "Taps" -- a bugle call that dates back to the Civil War. But finding a musician available to perform on short notice can be a challenge.

A  student in Woodhull, Illinois, about 20 miles north of Galesburg, inspired legislation that could make it easier. 

  U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk each say they support limited air strikes over Iraq to try to deter the Islamic State terrorist organization. But Durbin's expressing reservations.

President Barack Obama Thursday night authorized air strikes on the terrorist group which has been gaining territory in Iraq.

While Durbin (D-IL) says he is glad the action involves no boots on the ground, he's still cautious about getting involved in the conflict.

Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment, Illinois National Guard are assigned to a provincial reconstruction team’s security forces platoon. Gardez, Afghanistan, April 13, 2009.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Americans often hear that deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq are overstressing the citizen-soldiers of the National Guard.

Typical of such critics is military historian Jerry Morelock of Fulton, Mo. He joined the Florida National Guard as a private in 1963 before going to West Point and then on to an Army career that took him to the rank of colonel. 

“The way we’re using the National Guard isn’t the way it was intended be used,” Morelock says, “and it’s putting an inordinate strain on Guard members. They’re not professional soldiers. They have day jobs.”

The first time Staff Sgt. David Winkel returned from a year in Iraq, he was 30 pounds lighter and used to sleeping a handful of hours, a gun by his side. 

The 23-year-old says he re-enlisted in the U.S. Army because he loves the feeling of being a part of something that makes a difference. But coming home to Champaign after that first tour of duty threw him into a period of adjustment. He would wake up two or three times a night searching for his weapon. And he found it difficult to reconnect with some of his family and friends.