BOLINGBROOK – Illinois Army National Guard Capt. Thomas Gilligan makes a habit of protecting and serving.
Gilligan – a 28-year-old commanding officer of the Illinois Army National Guard’s 933rd Military Police Company – just wrapped up an eight-month deployment in Afghanistan, returned home to Bolingbrook and is preparing to resume his role as a police officer with the Bensenville Police Department.
The Romeoville High School Class of 2003 graduate was welcomed home by his parents, Bolingbrook residents Georgia and Tom Gilligan, and family and friends June 15.
The former student body president knows another deployment could be around the corner.
“I chose the National Guard because it allowed me to continue to pursue a civilian life and be in the Armed Forces,” Gilligan said. “We’re supposed to have dwell time, which allows a soldier five years at home, but an executive order can override that. We could be redeployed anywhere at any time.”
Gilligan said although Army National Guards are granted one weekend a month and two weeks a year of “dwell time,” sacrifices had to be made during the recent war on terror.
His dedication and determination has not gone unnoticed.
After graduating from Elmhurst College, Gilligan ascended from lieutenant to captain, sometimes overseeing teams of more than 100 officers.
Gilligan and his troops have been mobilized four times, twice in preparation for missions in Iraq, which never came about, and twice for back-to-back combat zone deployments in Egypt during the 2011 revolution and in Afghanistan from mid-2012 to early June of this year.
He called the Egypt mission “interesting” but readily admits commanding troops in Afghanistan “was a challenge every day … the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
For his outstanding leadership in a combat zone, the Army recently awarded him the Bronze Star, adding to a host of other medals and ribbons he has received during his seven years in the armed forces.
But, for Gilligan, the medals and awards are arbitrary. He says his greatest feat is bringing his soldiers back from battle, allowing them to return to their respective families.
“I have never lost a man in battle or experienced a casualty,” Gilligan said. “Company command in a combat zone is the pinnacle of an officer’s career, but I take a lot of pride bringing my unit back and allowing them to return safely to their families.”