It's all about the employees on America Day at Northrop Grumman's Rolling Meadows operations. The company, the largest defense contractor in Illinois, celebrated its 23rd annual such day on Tuesday.
It not only honors the nation's birthday but also the work of more than 2,100 employees who produce defense systems and other products for the government and military.
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"I love coming here because you, better than most, understand what our troops face," said congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, who spoke at the event. "You know how critical it is that they depend on the equipment you have."
Duckworth, who was in the military, reiterated how difficult it is for employees who have served or know people who have served in the military.
"To all the military families out there, my hat's off to you," Duckworth said. "You carry a burden that is often underappreciated."
Paul Overstreet, the U.S. Navy director for Program Control for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, thanked Northrup Grumman employees for making a reliable product he used when he flew missions.
"I had no idea that the aircraft (I was using) was a Northrop Grumman product," Overstreet said to the crowd. "You have to recognize there are some folks relying on your gear day-to-day."
Mike Pefley, the director of business development at Northrop Grumman, said he appreciates the people on the front lines the company makes its products for.
"It's a celebration of veterans who served and protect us," said Pefley, who has worked at Northrop Grumman for 31 years. "It is to honor those people that defend us."
Heidi Shyu, the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, was the keynote speaker for the event. She discussed how valued the products and effort of the employees Northrop Grumman are for making sure those fighting overseas have the advantage.
"Never send our soldiers into a fair fight," Shyu said. "The employees at Rolling Meadows help to make this a reality."
After the speeches, veterans, employees and local elected officials mingled over food and showed their gratitude for each other, contributing to the event's patriotic atmosphere.