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NEWS | March 25, 2024

Two Petersburg Soldiers retire from Illinois National Guard

Two military careers spanning a total of 56 years were celebrated at the Illinois Military Academy, March 23, as Sgt. 1st Class Richard Knowles and Sgt. 1st Class Michael Caceres, both of Petersburg, retired. 

“I could stand up here and talk about these two Soldiers all day long,” said Lt. Col. Wyatt Bickett, of Smithton, officer-in-charge, 129th Regiment (Regional Training Institute). “I’ve enjoyed serving with you both. I’m sad to see you go but you deserve all you get.” 

Knowles enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1994 as a plans and operations specialist, transitioning to the Illinois Army National Guard in 1998 as supply, training and readiness noncommissioned officers throughout his career. Knowles has served as the program manager for the Culinary Specialist military occupational specialty reclassification course with the 129th Regiment (Regional Training Institute) since 2020. 

Caceres enlisted in the Illinois Army National Guard in 1994 as a medical specialist and transitioned to the active-duty U.S. Army in 1997. In 2005, he returned to the Illinois Army National Guard and served as the 129th RTI’s senior supply noncommissioned officer since 2017. Throughout his career, he has served as a medical specialist, finance specialist and a supply noncommissioned officer. 

“There were times I didn’t think I’d get here,” Knowles said. “Thank you for sharing this moment with me.” 

Knowles also thanked his family for their support, and fellow service members for their guidance. 

“When someone joins the military, they sign a blank check to be cased at any time for any amount. The family doesn’t write that check, but you can bet they helped cover it,” he said. “The Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers I’ve served with the past 30 years offered leadership, guidance, and mentorship and sometimes provided examples of what not to do.” 

Knowles offered advice to his fellow Soldiers. 

“No matter what you’re doing, make a plan, and work on it every day,” he said.  

He also urged them to be resourceful, to take chances, to not sweat the small stuff, and try as many things as you can, and to not look at failures as just failures. 

“Failures are lessons learned and knowledge gained,” he said, adding that he is looking forward to whatever the future holds for him. 

Caceres thanked his family for their support, and his fellow Soldiers for their friendship. 

“My military service was better because of the people I served with and the people I’ve seen grow up in the Illinois National Guard since I’ve been here,” he said.