Gov. Pat Quinn was joined earlier this month by local students to light the state of Illinois’ Christmas tree and launch the annual Illinois Heroes Holiday Card Drive. The governor encouraged students from across the state to take part in the annual drive by making holiday cards for service members at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Quinn will personally deliver the cards during a visit to troops at WRNMMC later this year. The drive is part of Quinn’s commitment to support the men and women who have served our nation. “The Illinois Heroes Holiday Card Drive is about making sure that our service members receive a warm reminder of how much we love and support them,” Quinn said. “We can never thank our soldiers enough for the sacrifices they have made to keep us safe and secure our freedom. Though great distances may separate us, they will never be far from our hearts and they are always in our prayers.” This year will mark the ninth time that Quinn has visited Illinois troops and their families for Christmas. For the previous eight years, Quinn traveled to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Germany, which is the largest American hospital outside of the United States. Since many service members have returned home since the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Governor Quinn will be visiting the WRNMMC this year. Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Borggren and service members from across the state also joined the governor at the tree lighting ceremony. “Holidays spent away from home are just one of the many sacrifices our service members make to protect us,” Borggren said. “While we want to do everything we can to support them throughout the year, we know it means so much for a service member to receive a ‘touch of home’ during the holidays to let them know how much they are appreciated. As we gather with our loved ones to celebrate the holiday season, we encourage the people of Illinois to keep our service members in their thoughts and prayers.” Also in attendance were several Gold Star families, who hung ornaments in memory of their sons and daughters on the tree. The choir from Skinner West Elementary School in Chicago performed during the tree lighting ceremony and presented their cards for Quinn to take to Bethesda. For more information on how to participate in the Illinois Heroes Holiday Card Drive, please visit www.OperationHomefront.org.