SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Illinois National Guard celebrated its 300th anniversary in the state capital on Saturday.
A series of events took place in Springfield, according to The State Journal-Register. These included a “walking timeline” at the state’s military museum to events that commemorated key war victories spearheaded by the Guard.
It all wrapped up with an invitation-only birthday gala at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
“We’re the only military organization with both a state mission and a federal mission,” said Lieutenant Colonel Brad Leighton, public affairs director for the National Guard. “A lot of people don’t understand that and where it came from. How did this unique organization come up with that state mission?”
Representatives from Australia and Belgium were in attendance to highlight partnerships between the nations and the U.S., as well as two major events in the Guard’s history. These include The Battle of Hamel in 1918, as well as the rescue of Belgium’s King Leopold from Nazi troops in 1945.
“They stole back a German staff car and slipped through German lines pretending to be a Nazi official and surprised the Germans at the place they were holding the king in Austria,” Leighton said. “After the war, anytime he came to the United States, he came and visited his Illinois National Guard rescuers. It took a lot of daring and a lot of bravery to go through enemy lines and rescue the King of Belgium.”
The official 300th birthday of the guard will be celebrated on May 9, the day that the first militia was set up under the direction of Diron d’Artaguiette, inspector of troops for the French Commandant, back in 1723.
Militia members served in the American Revolution and the War of 1812 before Illinois was even a state. Illinois was admitted to the Union in 1818.