CHICAGO – Illinois commemorated Veterans Day with calls for peace and a slate of events Sunday to honor those who served, from parades to a museum dedication and even an offer of free legal help.
The highest-profile events included a grand reopening for a Chicago museum that features thousands of works created by veterans and a dedication at Chicago’s Navy Pier for a traveling exhibit showcasing drawings of fallen Illinois service members, an event attended by Gov. Pat Quinn.
“As we honor our service members on Veterans Day, we must remember the sacrifices so many have made for our country,” Quinn said in a statement. “This exhibit is a reminder of how much a brave few have given on behalf of so many.”
But at an event not far away, anti-war sentiments were strong.
A group of veterans from wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam gathered Sunday near the Vietnam War Memorial in downtown Chicago to call for peace and the immediate withdrawal of troops from all overseas conflicts.
“The best way to honor our veterans is to stop creating them,” Alejandro Villatoro, a member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War, said in a telephone interview.
The former Army Reserve soldier who was involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2011 surge in Afghanistan is urging the Obama administration to invest in better mental health care treatment for veterans and stronger patient care at VA hospitals. He spoke out against military action in Afghanistan.
In other parts of Illinois, celebrations and commemorations over the weekend took on a more traditional tone. Peoria Heights held a parade Saturday with veterans marching down streets lined with American flags. Hundreds in southwestern Illinois attended a veterans event Saturday at the O’Fallon Veterans’ Monument. The Bethalto Historical Museum hosted an open house Saturday where a variety of uniforms and other memorabilia from the Civil War, World War I and World War II were on display.
Attorneys in southwestern Illinois were offering free legal advice sessions for veterans in Madison County, and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Sunday released a guide on the legal protections, rights and benefits for military service members, veterans and their families.
Veterans Day is officially observed today. Many schools will be closed, including in Chicago. Along with it being a U.S. Postal Service holiday, most government buildings will be closed. In Springfield, veterans were honored Sunday during the city’s annual downtown parade. Chicago will host its annual parade today with Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White as grand marshal.