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Gov. Pritzker Honors Gold Star Families At Illinois State Fair, Signs Legislation To Improve Services For Servicemembers And Veterans

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) -- At the Illinois State Fair on Sunday, there was a salute to veterans, and to Gold Star families who have lost loved ones in military service.

"We are here today to remember those we've lost, and to honor the families who carry a hole in their hearts that can never be filled," said Gov. JB Pritzker. "We may never know what it's like to stand in your shoes, but I want you to know that the good people of Illinois will always be grateful to you."

With those words, Gov. Pritzker, his wife MK, and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton presented yellow roses to members of Gold Star families.

The governor said some service members lost their lives fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, and some died helping others in the face of life-threatening storms – among other challenges.

Gov. Pritzker also signed seven bills to help Illinois service members address challenges they face during and after their service. Those bills were:

• HB 1290, which expands the state definition of honorable discharge to include veterans who were discharged because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Under the now-defunct Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans were not allowed to serve openly in the armed forces.

• HB 2776, which requires the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to expedite professional license applications that are submitted by service members or their spouses within 30 days of all documents being received.

• HB 3865, which sets up additional consumer protections to protect service members and veterans. This law requires private companies that advertise benefits appear services for veterans and service members to disclose publicly that the same services are available for free through government agencies.

• SB 505, which amends the military code to allow family members or next of kin to receive a state flag if a member of the Illinois National Guard dies on active duty or in training.

• SB 2089, which requires the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to fly U.S., Illinois, and POW-MIA flags at all state parks within five years.

• HB 1915, which allows the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs to create Fold of Honor decals for Illinois license plates.

• HB 2894, which designates the first Saturday in May as Veterans Gardening Day.

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