SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Col. Lance Koenig, U.S. Army Sustainment Command, provided keynote remarks at the annual Desert Storm Remembrance Ceremony hosted by the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs in the Illinois State Capitol Rotunda here, Feb. 28.

This year marks the 26th anniversary of the cease-fire announcement ending the Gulf War.

Code-named Operation Desert Shield for operations leading to the buildup of troops and defense of Saudi Arabia and Operation Desert Storm in its combat phase, The Gulf War was waged by coalition forces from 35 nations led by the U.S. against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.

"To the fine veterans who served during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm -- words alone cannot express our gratitude for the selfless service and sacrifice they and their families made to support and defend our nation's freedom, liberty and way of life," said Koenig addressing an audience of veterans from all branches of service.

Following Koenig's remarks, Renysha Brown, Illinois VA chief of staff, read the Governor's Proclamation declaring the day as "…Desert Storm Remembrance Day in Illinois in honor and remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country."

Seventeen of the more than 300 U.S. service members who were killed during Desert Storm were from Illinois.

"This remembrance ceremony here today is a demonstration of Illinois' respect to her veterans," said Koenig.

He also recognized Phillipa Porter, a Gold Star Mother present at the ceremony. Her son, Marine Lance Cpl. Christian Porter, was killed in combat on Feb. 27, 1991.

Koenig also remarked about the major changes in battlefield doctrine, weapons technology and training philosophy since that time.

"The veterans of Desert Storm carried on a long and proud tradition of U.S. military battlefield successes and reinforced the foundation upon which today's military has risen to unmatched levels of capability across the spectrum of war to become the most dominant force in the world," he said. "We are here to honor you for your service that led us to where we are today and will continue to influence the future successes of our military."

The ceremony was led by Gwen Diehl, a member of the Illinois VA and Gulf War veteran.

During the ceremony, the VA recognized all military personnel who served during that period, asking those present to stand and be recognized.

A memorial service was also conducted where veterans wearing Desert Storm-era uniforms placed symbolic objects at a table in front of the audience.

A sprig of evergreen was presented, "…as a symbol of our undying love for our comrades."
White flowers, a symbol of purity, was presented, "…that each future generation may emulate the unselfish devotion to duty of the lowliest of our comrades."

A laurel wreath was placed at the memorial to, "…crown their (comrades) mortal dust with a symbol of victory."

Finally, the American flag and one red rose for each of the 17 Illinois service members killed in action were placed at the Memorial.