Illinois soldiers participated in anniversary ceremony in France

Photo by Sgt. Janine Fabre, Australian Army

ATTENDED CEREMONY–The Illinois Army National Guard’s Spc. Troy Mairs of Ashton, at left, and Sgt. 1st Class Robert Reed of Sparta, second from left, are pictured saluting along with Australian service members during a headstone rededication conducted for Australian Army Private Robert Bowness on July 4 at Villers-Bretonneux Cemetery in France. Bowness, a member of Australia’s 4th Pioneer Battalion, was killed on the Western Front 100 years ago. His final resting place is now known to his descendants.

It was the first time Illinois Soldiers fought during World War I, sparking a military partnership that has lasted for the past century. Exactly 100 years later, Illinois National Guard leaders and soldiers traveled back to northern France to mark the centennial anniversary of the Battle of Hamel.

On July 4, 1918, Illinois National Guard Soldiers fought for the first time in WWI, alongside Soldiers from the Australian Army in the Battle of Hamel, considered a turning point toward Allied victory. This Independence Day, on July 4, 2018, Maj. Gen. Richard J. Hayes, the adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard, of Chatham, joined a group of Illinois National Guard Soldiers, representatives from the Department of Defense and the Australian Army in Le Hamel, France, to mark 100 years since this historic battle. Hayes was also joined by a small group of Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers, including Sgt. 1st Class Robert Reed of Sparta.

Hayes said the Battle of Hamel remains a point of pride for the Illinois National Guard, even 100 years later.

To think that Illinois was the first state National Guard that was activated by the President, the first units that ever fought with the Australians, and the first units ever to serve under the command of another nation – we’re duly proud as Illinois National Guardsmen of that. We’re proud of our history and we’re proud to share it with our friends from Australia,” said Hayes.

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