ROCKFORD, Ill. — Nearly 26 years lapsed before Casey Solana was able to show his children the medals he was awarded for serving in Operation Desert Storm.
The former Marine Corps veteran, an FBI special agent who works in the Rockford field office, said the prolonged process was due in part to a mistake when he was discharged from the Marines and to his own procrastination. But not having those medals and ribbons at home nagged at him.
“The thing that always bothered me was I had no form of proof that I was in Desert Storm,” Solana said. “I just wanted some sort of proof that I had been there.”
Solana, who has spent the last 20 years as an FBI agent, 17 of those in the Rockford office, said he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1986 after graduating from Quigley South High School in Chicago. While he didn’t serve in a combat role, at times he wasn’t far from the fighting.
Solana became a communications center operator, relaying notices and messages for soldiers, sending death notices, and relaying communications to the Pentagon, various branches of the military and Camp Pendleton, which is a Marine Corps base. He began boot camp on Jan. 4, 1987, and was supposed to be discharged on Jan. 4, 1991, but a stop-loss mechanism was invoked in November 1990, delaying his release. The stop-loss measure prevents service members from leaving the military when their term is up and can be utilized to address manpower shortages.
He was honorably discharged in late May 1991, and said he was rushed through the process and never handed those medals.
“Very noticeably, none of my Desert Storm medals were on my discharge papers,” he said.
Solana credits his wife of 14 years, Jeanne Solana, and staff in U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s office, with helping him obtain the medals and ribbons. Jeanne Solana began inquiring about how to receive them and provided some of the prodding Casey Solana said he needed to pursue it.
In February, Casey Solana received his medals in the mail. Kinzinger presented them to Casey Solana during a ceremony on May 30, which Solana’s wife and children, Ben, 13; Helena, 10; and Eva, 8, attended.
The medals and ribbons are: the National Defense medal and accompanying ribbon; the Southwest Asia Service medal; and the Navy Unit Commendation ribbon for service in Desert Storm. These Desert Storm medals and ribbons joined those he already received in the Marines: the Good Conduct medal and Sea Service Deployment ribbon, the latter of which he was awarded for serving seven months on a Navy ship in 1988.
Maura Gillespie, a spokeswoman for Kinzinger, said an employee in Kinzinger’s office contacted the Marine Corps and helped Solana obtain the medals, two of which Solana said were awarded by the governments of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. It didn’t take much digging, Gillespie said, in part because Solana knew his dates of service.
“It’s always rewarding to help veterans receive recognition they deserve for their service,” Gillespie said.
Staff members in Kinzinger’s office typically receive 10 to 15 requests each year for help obtaining military awards, she said.
While it took more than two decades to hold the Desert Storm medals and ribbons, “how great was it to have your wife and children present?” Casey Solana said.
Source: Rockford Register Star, http://bit.ly/2f9xSsK
Information from: Rockford Register Star, http://www.rrstar.com
This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by the Rockford Register Star.