Durbin delivers remarks at Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring Casimer 'Casey' Celske

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

[WASHINGON, D.C.]  – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) delivered remarks at today’s Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring the members of the First Special Service Force in World War II. The force –referred to as the ‘Devil’s Brigade’ by German opposition – was an elite unit that played a critical role in the liberation of Europe during the war. During his speech, Durbin recognized 94-year-old veteran Casimer ‘Casey’ Celske, an Aledo, Illinois resident and original member of the First Special Service Force. Celske, a father of 11, fought with the First Special Service Force at the Battle of Anzio and was among the first Allied soldiers to enter Rome and liberate it from the Nazis. Following the ceremony, Senator Durbin met with Celske and his guests in the Capitol. A photo from today’s meeting will be available shortly here.

“Yesterday morning, the snow was still falling in Chicago; the winds were blowing 45 miles per hour. Someone asked, ‘Do you think Casey Celske is still going to make it to Washington to receive the Congressional Gold Medal?’ I thought that this person does not know who these First Special Service Forcemen are. These men are legends,” Durbin said.

“Casey Celske fought with the First Special Service Force at the Battle of Anzio. They operated under cover of darkness, deep behind enemy lines, using unconventional warfare tactics in support of other units. The unit suffered more than 2,300 casualties – more than 130 percent of its original combat strength of 1,800 volunteers. But it never lost a mission, not one. On behalf of the Congress of the United States, and freedom-loving people everywhere, we say thank you.”

The Congressional Gold Medal is the nation’s highest civilian award given to individuals who perform an outstanding deed or act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States. The First Special Service Force (FSSF) were all volunteers and took on the most dangerous missions, often operating under the cover of darkness. Military special forces units such as the Green Berets, Army Rangers, Navy Seals, Marines’ Force Recon units, and Canadian Special Operations Regiment can all be traced back to the FSSF.

The Congressional Gold Medal is considered the Congressional equivalent to the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Legislation bestowing the Congressional Gold Medal to a recipient must be co-sponsored by two thirds of the membership of both the House of Representatives and the Senate before their respective committees will consider it.  The Congressional Gold Medal is created by the United States Mint to specifically commemorate the person and achievement for which the medal is awarded.