032222cm0483 rSPRINGFIELD – Legislation sponsored by State Senator Laura Ellman (D-Naperville) would make more members of Gold Star families eligible to receive dedicated license plates.

“When a brave individual decides to step up and serve our country, their family serves, too,” Ellman said. “Missed holidays, birthdays and other special occasions are the price our service members and their families pay, and when a life is lost in the line of duty, loved ones are left with empty chairs and broken hearts.”

House Bill 5078 expands the current eligibility list for Gold Star Family license plates to include stepchildren, adopted children and half-siblings of veterans who lost their lives serving in a branch of the United States Armed Forces, and waives the registration fee for children in Gold Star Families. The legislation also aligns existing language regarding eligibility for a Gold Star lapel button with language used by the Department of Defense.

“Gold Star Families have made sacrifices that cannot be repaid,” Ellman said. “This legislation ensures that we are able to offer them the utmost respect and recognition for that sacrifice.”

Having passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday, the legislation will now go before the full Senate for further consideration.

Operation HerStory GinnyNarsete TWFor Women's History Month, we will be featuring some of the brave women whose stories will be shared during our Women's History Month Panel. Ginny Narsete was a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force. She served active duty 1973 to 1978 and in the reserve 1977 to 2003. During her time in the Air Force, she was stationed at England Air Force Base in Louisiana, Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, and with the O'Hare Reserve Unit here in Illinois. She is also a founder of Operation HerStory, and will be the guest speaker at our panel.

On why she joined: "Education, GI Bill, and career choices, as well as to be part of History and support our troops in Vietnam"

On her service and how her gender impacted her duties: "I served my active duty time as administrative assistant. I then changed to Public Affairs when I entered the Air Force Reserve.

"Women were not given jobs beyond desk positions, typing, or medical. We were also held back from commanding, especially  any type of flying unit, getting promotions like our brothers."

On her memorable experiences: "Traveling as a photojournalist, writing stories, and working alongside my friends. I also traveled throughout South America, Europe, Korea and Japan."

On building relationships with other women in service, supporting one another, and staying in touch after serving: "Building relationships with other women was important. It's all we had. We supported each other by doing things together like hobbies, church and naturally bonding.

"Sexual harassment was rampant and no where to go for help, so we pretty much kept to ourselves. The women I served with were very protective of each other. Many of us still keep in touch. My boss was very protective, in fact too protective, he was like a dad protecting his daughters."

On life after service: "After serving, it only got better. My passion for the military experience only meant something when I paid it forward in helping others and keeping the women mission alive. A perfect example is serving on boards, with the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, with the American Legion, and as the founder of Operation HerStory with several other women."

On her favorite memories from the Operation HerStory flight: "Bonding with other female veterans, sharing stories and now keeping in touch. Many of us are continuing to serve and mentor our younger troops. Mostly building relationships with Legion Riders in Naperville, younger female veterans and praising those who helped."

On joining other women veterans for the flight: "I loved it!!!  Such great bonding and sharing stories!!"

On what she would like community members to know about her experience as a woman in the military: "Invite women veterans to tell their stories to your community organizations. Women who served were strong, built character and strength to defend our country. I'm proud we stuck with the military, served with pride, and broke the glass ceiling to fight for equality. Interestingly, the men I served with supported our role.

"Most importantly, make those women who served visible so our stories will be told. The women in the military fought for many firsts. It hasn't changed. Operation HerStory fought hard to even get the first all women's flight. We found the women through grassroots outreach and raised all the money for the flight. Also Col. Jennifer Pritzker, the VFW, the American Legion, the McCormick Foundation and the Daughters of the American Revolution believed in us."

On how the flight came about: "It started as an assignment in DAR to work with Honor Flight. After much research, it was clear women on the flights were non-existent except for 2 or 3 women a year. So I began researching why women on these flights were not invited. Then the work began! Little effort was made to reach out before, but then Operation HerStory was born to create an all female flight."

On what "We served together and we were visible, together" means to her: "We found each other through a lot of ground operations and promised to make ourselves visible to all Americans."

On how the flight came together and the support it received: "Flight came together with a lot of organizations who wanted to recognize the women who served. The community and other organizations like the Naperville American Legion, the VFW and the DAR all supported us. The Pritzker Military Museum & Library donated a generous grant and their library to hold meetings and press events."

"Honor Flight came in 9 months after Operation HerStory was founded. OHS located the 93 women veterans and funds to pay for the trip. Honor Flight arranged the transportation and cheering crowds. The community, meaning the whole country, praised the women heroes."

On what's next: "To become more visible and hopefully we will be part of more parades, receive speaker support, and tell our stories at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library oral history program. Then add in social events, golf, lunches, museums and possibly more trips! Overall we found each other. Time to find more!"

naper settlement rNAPERVILLE – Three local museums are set to receive more than $1.8 million in Public Museum Capital Grants, State Senator Laura Ellman (D-Naperville) and State Representative Janet Yang Rohr (D-Naperville) announced on Friday.

“Local museums and exhibits provide priceless, hands-on learning opportunities for families in our community,” Ellman said. “I’m pleased to see investment in these invaluable institutions right here in our back yards. These grants will create jobs and preserve our museums for future generations to enjoy.”

The Illinois Public Museums Capital Grants Program, overseen by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, is open to any museum operated by local government or located on municipally owned land. Public museums are eligible to receive up to $750,000 through the program, and matching funds may be required based on museum attendance levels.

“Not only do our museums offer fun and immersive educational opportunities, they bring families from across Illinois to our community—driving the local economy and boosting tourism,” Yang Rohr said. “We are lucky to have these fantastic institutions in our community, and I’m glad to see them receive this well-deserved investment.”

The following local museums were selected to receive grants:

  • The DuPage Children’s Museum - $302,700 to create a “Questioners: Think. Question. Read. Play!” exhibit
  • Naperville Heritage Society - $749,700 for a Naper Settlement Digital Experience Welcome Zone
  • Wheaton Park District - $750,000 for restoration and stabilization of historic masonry in the DuPage County Historical Museum

More information about the Illinois Public Museum Capital Grants Program is available online.

Ellman is also encouraging residents interested in visiting local museums to reach out to her district office to access her museum resource education card. Use of the card is completely free, and constituents may check out the card for two consecutive days to admit the cardholder and three guests to many local institutions. A full list of participating institutions can be viewed on Ellman’s website, and her office can be reached at 630-601-9961. Interested residents are asked to reserve the card three business days in advance of their anticipated visit.

Operation HerStory Ludwig TWFor Women's History Month, we will be featuring some of the brave women whose stories will be shared during our Women's History Month Panel. Betsy Valentine Ludwig was a Captain in the United States Air Force Nurse Corps. She served in the obstetrical unit at Malmstorm Air Force Base in Great Falls, MT, from 1970 to 1971, and with the surgical and air-evacuation units at Clark Air Base in the Phillippine Islands from 1971 to 1972.

On why she joined: "My Dad was in WWII and I knew that if I was a guy (during this time of the Vietnam conflict), I might have been drafted. So, by me offering my assistance as a nurse, I felt that I was contributing to my country. My Dad’s unspoken courage and patriotism had influenced my determination to ‘do what I could’ to care for those in need, medically...whether it be physical or emotional.

"I would like members of our community to know that the military is not only made up of those who have to pick up arms to support a cause. There are numerous needs that are ever-present, in order to preserve and defend our freedoms."

On her memorable experiences: "Being away from home was difficult, especially around the holidays. But, we were ALL away from home! And, somehow, each one of us (patients, staff, and our fellow servicemen and women) became 'family' to one another!

"I met my husband-to-be while stationed overseas. When I was discharged from the Air Force, several of my military co-workers/staff flew to New York to be at my wedding. I was indeed, so proud to introduce them to my family and friends at my wedding."

On Operation HerStory: "I was astounded that there were SO MANY PEOPLE who wanted to show appreciation and acknowledgment to women who served. Whether we served for two years or made a career in the military, we were all so very overwhelmed at the outpouring of love and attention that was showered upon us, on our special day, Oct. 6, 2021. Being greeted by hundreds of people at both airports literally took my breath away. Perhaps no one could tell, but my mask was (thankfully) absorbing the moisture that was coming from my eyes.  Tears of joy...tears of deep pride.

"My ‘guardian’ Kathy was absolutely wonderful. She was so attentive and sincere! By the end of the day, I felt like I had gained a ‘sister.’ If I were to say one thing I regret that day, it would be that I didn’t make time to talk to other women, and ask them about their story.’"

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Contact Info

District Office
24W500 Maple Ave., Suite 215
Naperville, IL 60540
Phone: (630) 601-9961

Springfield Office
Stratton Office Building

Section C, Room D
Springfield, IL 62706
Phone: (217) 782-8192