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NEWS | Feb. 12, 2024

Illinois National Guard Honors Former Guardsman, President Abraham Lincoln

By Barb Wilson, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs

The Illinois National Guard recognized its most notable militiaman and 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, during a ceremony at his tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois, Feb. 12, marking the 215th anniversary of his birth.

Army Brig. Gen. Mark Alessia, Director of the Illinois National Guard Joint Staff, presented a wreath on behalf of President Joseph Biden as part of the 90th annual National American Legion Pilgrimage to his tomb.

“On behalf of the men and women of the Illinois National Guard, it is an honor to participate in this ceremony today,” Alessia said. “And it is a privilege for us all to learn from the life, the deeds, the words, and the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln.”

Alessia was carrying on a tradition that began in 1967 when President Lyndon Baines Johnson sent wreaths to be presented at the graves of his predecessors on their birthdays. Each year, wreaths of red, white, and blue flowers are sent to the burial places of all deceased presidents on the anniversary of their birthday.

“Abraham Lincoln’s integrity, leadership and wisdom still permeates the fabric of our country 159-years after his death,” Alessia said.

Alessia told the approximately 150 people who assembled for the ceremony that Lincoln has particular significance for the Illinois National Guard because he served as a captain in the Illinois State Militia during the Blackhawk War.

“Our guardsmen draw inspiration from Lincoln almost daily,” Alessia said. “This is easy when you consider Lincoln served at the lowest levels of a military unit, and at the very top as our Commander-in-Chief.”