By LAURA CAMPER
STATE CAPITOL BUREAU
SPRINGFIELD -- With the country embroiled in war in Iraq, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn is asking that Illinois high schools recognize students who enlist in the military after graduation.
Quinn said the commencement ceremonies are an important time to recognize not only valedictorians, but also those young men and women answering the call to duty.
Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, who served in the Marines and is the father of a Marine, joined Quinn at a Statehouse news conference Tuesday to stress the importance of recognizing the sacrifice of students joining the military.
"It's not a natural thing to most people, to step out and say this is what I want to do, and this is how I want to serve my country," Bost said. "Regardless of whether you believe in this conflict that we're in ... it is something that we do owe respect."
Dan Uhles of DuQuoin, whose son Lance Cpl. Drew Uhles enlisted in the Marines after high school and was killed in Iraq, suggested to Quinn that recognition should be given during graduation to students choosing to serve their country in the military.
"We realized that 60 years ago, men were graduating on Friday and going into service on Monday," Uhles said at the news conference. "If you fast forward to 2007, the same thing was happening."
Quinn contacted the Illinois Principals Association to see if the suggestion could become reality. With the cooperation of the association, 25 Illinois high schools, including Woodruff High School in Peoria and Morton High School, are acknowledging military enlistees during their graduation ceremonies.
"These people, who are giving their lives for our country, are not statistics," Quinn said, mentioning Drew Uhles. "We have to remember and look for ways to remember each of these heroes."
Laura Camper can be reached at (217) 782-6882 or firstname.lastname@example.org.