Mode Soldier Retires After 34 Years in the Illinois Army National Guard

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SULLIVAN, IL (09/25/2018) (readMedia)-- Master Sgt. Tim Kessler of Mode, Illinois, has retired from the Illinois Army National Guard after 34 years of service in which he attained seven different military jobs, deployed to Afghanistan and to Germany, earned the Soldiers Medal for saving a woman from a toxic gas leak and served on multiple state activations including the Great Flood of 1993.

Kessler has been a mainstay in the 634th Brigade Support Battalion, said Lt. Col. Stacey Walker, Commander of the 634th Brigade Support Battalion based in Sullivan, Illinois.

"When I first joined this unit as a platoon leader many years ago, there was Master Sgt. Kessler. Then, years later, when I came back as Commander, there was Master Sgt. Kessler."

Kessler's knowledge and expertise with the 634th BSB and with his previous unit, B Co., 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment based in Effingham, was invaluable to the officers of those units as well as the hundreds of Soldiers he mentored over the years, Walker said.

It was his expertise in farming as well as his personal bravery that earned him the Soldiers Medal. In early April 2016 on his way to work he noticed a cloud of anhydrous ammonia. Some 19 tons of the dangerous agricultural gas had spilled out of a truck. Kessler immediately recognized what the cloud was because of his experience with fertilizers and farming. Within the cloud he could barely make out a car with its hazard lights on. He entered the cloud and pulled Holly Nichols, then 19-years-old, out of the cloud and to safety.

"It will always be a day that we will always remember and never forget! We could never repay you enough for your bravery," wrote Danny Nichols, Holly's father, on the Illinois National Guard Facebook page.

Kessler deployed with Bilateral Embedded Support Team A4 (BEST A4) to Afghanistan in 2009. BEST A4 served under Task Force White Eagle, a Polish-led force that worked to stabilize Afghanistan under NATO. The Illinois National Guard has shared a State Partnership Program with the Polish military since 1993. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Kessler was deployed with what was then the Illinois Army National Guard's 66th Brigade to Europe. He served in Germany until late summer 2002. In 1993, Kessler was among 7,000 Soldiers to respond to the Great Flood of 1993 along the Mississippi River. The Great Flood state active duty ranks as the largest domestic emergency response in Illinois National Guard history.

Kessler said he stayed in the Illinois Army National Guard for so long because he loved being with Soldiers and mentoring them.

"There were times – perhaps too often – that I put you and your needs above my family," he said to the Soldiers at his Sept. 16 retirement ceremony. "But that just gives you an idea how much you mean to me."

Kessler said he plans to farm in his retirement and spend quality time with his spouse of 30 years, Patty, as well as his children and two 15-month-old granddaughters.

Cutline 1: Master Sgt. Tim Kessler of Mode, Illinois, salutes the American Flag during the playing of the National Anthem during his Sept. 16 retirement ceremony in Sullivan. Kessler retired with more than 34 years of service.

Cutline 2: Lt. Col. Stacey Walker presents Patty Kessler, spouse of Master Sgt. Tim Kessler, with a Certificate of Appreciation signed by the Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley thanking her for more than three decades of supporting Master Sgt. Kessler's military service.

Cutline 3: Master Sgt. Tim Kessler of Mode, Illinois, addresses the Soldiers of the 634th Brigade Support Battalion during his Sept. 16 retirement ceremony. Pinned to his uniform is the Meritorious Service Medal, which he was awarded upon his retirement.