CHICAGO - Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois National Guard leaders gathered here at the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland today to pay respects to Republic of Poland President Lech Kaczynski, military leaders and other Polish dignitaries who were killed in the April 10 plane crash.
“I visited Polish military headquarters and saw how important and how brave the Polish military is in defending freedom in Poland, in Europe, and in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Quinn. “The people of Poland should be proud.”
“Poland is no stranger to Illinois,” said Army Brig. Gen. Robert J. Pratt, commander of the 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade based in Chicago. “We have developed very strong relationships in training and exercises, but not only in exercises, but in a time of war. We have been in Iraq with the Polish and most recently today we are in Afghanistan with the Polish forces.”
Quinn and Pratt signed a condolences book and also presented the Consul General of Poland, Zygmunt Matynia with a flag, which was flown at half staff at the Illinois National Guard Headquarters in remembrance of those killed.
The Illinois Guard’s State Partnership Program with Poland was established in 1993, and many of the Illinois Soldiers and Airmen have served or had relationships with those who passed away April 10.
Lt. Col. Matthew A. Voyles, the operations officer for the 108th Sustainment Brigade based in Chicago, deployed with Maj. Gen. Tadeusz Buk, the Polish Land Forces Commander, who was killed in the plane crash.
“Gen. Buk was my commander and I can tell you during that time, and particularly those six months, he was the right leader at the right place at the right time and he made a huge difference, not only in the lives of the people in that region, but for all of us that served with the Polish forces on that mission,” said Voyles.
Matynia thanked everyone for the condolences and then thanked the Illinois National Guard Soldiers, who were present for serving with the Polish soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Army Maj. Gen. William L Enyart, the adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard, along with Army Brig. Gen. Steven P. Huber, deputy commander of the Illinois Army National Guard, are traveling to Poland to attend memorial services for those killed April 10.
President Barack Obama, a former senator from Illinois, will also travel to Poland to attend funeral services for President Lech Kaczynski and his wife.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama will leave Saturday night to attend the state funeral at Krakow's Wawel Cathedral on Sunday.
Gibbs said Obama is going to express condolences to an important ally and to show support for the Polish people on behalf of all Americans.