State honors residents killed in the line of duty

By Sara Adams and Desiree Smith

Flags across Illinois were flown at half-staff Monday in honor of 29-year-old Peoria native Lt. Richard Gienau, who was killed in Iraq Feb. 27.

According to a proclamation by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, all state facilities must ” … fly the flag of the United States of America at half-staff on the day of the funeral of every Illinois National Guard member and every Illinois resident serving in the U.S. Armed Forces that is killed in the line of duty, and that the flags be raised back to full-staff on the following day.”

This proclamation has been updated to honor any Illinois resident serving in the U.S. Armed Forces because of a push by the organization Military Families Speak Out. A previous proclamation made Dec. 6, 2004, asked all state buildings to lower their flags when an Illinois National Guard member was killed in Afghanistan or Iraq.

MFSO organized a protest in the Thompson Center in Chicago on Feb. 22 to have the proclamation changed.

“Most military families find their Marine or other soldier equally important,” said Paul Vogel, a local coordinator for MFSO. “This is not only a request to honor the soldiers but to honor their lives.”

The event on Feb. 22 was to draw attention to the 63 Illinois soldiers who had lost their lives in Iraq by that date. Of those, only 11 were National Guard members, Vogel said.

“We hope that when people see the flag at half-staff they remember the war is still going on and the cost continues to climb higher and higher.”

MFSO would like more buildings to take part in the honor.

“If private companies, banks and cities [lowered flags] too, it would be more of a sign of respect,” Vogel said.

Letters are sent to state buildings and universities when a flag must be lowered.

Flags are flown at half-staff, or at the midway point on a flagpole, as a mark of respect to the memory of principal figures of the U.S. government or a state government, according to the Flag Code.

There are four occasions when flying a flag at half-staff is appropriate: Memorial Day, Peace Officers Memorial Day, at the direction of the president or at the direction of a state’s governor.

Gienau is one of 83 casualties Illinois has suffered since the beginning of the war in Iraq. Gienau was killed on a drive from Ramadi to Karbala, Iraq when a bomb blew up the Humvee he was riding in.

Three others from the Quad City area were injured in the incident. He was deployed in October and was working with members of the Iowa National Guard. He is survived by several family members, including a 9-year-old son.