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By Barbara Wilson
Illinois National Guard Soldiers from Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery Regiment are on the ground in Grafton, Illinois reinforcing barriers with sandbags.
The Soldiers arrived in Grafton Tuesday with the mission to control the water flow with sandbags, according to 1st Lt. Silas Greening of Pittsfield, Illinois.
“We have reinforced the concrete barriers with 30-40 pallets of sandbags,” Greening said.
While the length of the Grafton assignment is unknown, Greening said the team is in Grafton until civilian authorities tell them otherwise.
The flooding along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers hits close to Greening’s unit.
“I know a lot of our Soldiers who grew up along the rivers,” Greening said. “It means a lot to be willing to come help the local communities in this situation. It was a big step for our Soldiers to answer the phone call to come to work. It says a lot for these guys.”
Illinois National Guard Soldier and Jacksonville resident Spc. Jared Jess says it is great to see the local residents working to save their communities.
“It’s emotional for me to see our neighbors in this situation,” Jess said. “I live 20 minutes from the Illinois River, so we’ve seen our share of flooding issues.”
Jess said the Soldiers try to remain upbeat and provide extra helping hands.
“They’re hurting,” he said. “We’re trying to ease the hurt.”
Jess visited Grafton as a child, visiting the local tourist attractions.
“It’s sad to see Grafton underwater,” he said. “But it helps me feel better knowing we’re helping our neighbors in their time of need.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, along with several state agencies, toured flooded areas in and around Grafton Tuesday afternoon.
“All the resources available through the state are available to help protect Grafton,” Pritzker said. “We are doing everything we can to keep people safe. Life safety is our first priority as is critical infrastructure.”
Pritzker applauded the efforts of the Illinois National Guard and announced he was increasing the number of Soldiers called to State Active Duty for flood duty.
“The National Guard is working here and along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers flood fighting,” he said. “I’m proud of the work they are doing and thankful for their families and employers.”
“Thank you to the families and employers of our Citizen-Soldiers. We stand by to do everything the Governor asks of us,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Glisson, Director of the Illinois National Guard Joint Staff. “Two hundred Soldiers have been activated with an additional 200 being activated. We are looking ahead.”
According to Grafton Mayor Rick Eberlin, this is the fourth time since 2017 the community has faced a high-water event.
“We have received the resources when we need them. The National Guard has done a great job,” Eberlin said. “Since they arrived this morning they have reinforced this area with sandbags.”