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Veterans Day 2013 Chicago-area tributes held

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ceremonies and memorials were held across Illinois Monday to mark Veterans Day.

Chicago's veterans were honored Monday during a ceremony at Soldier Field. Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel were among the dignitaries attending Monday's event. It was a sober tribute to the men and women who've sacrificed themselves in defense of their country.

The familiar taps bugle call sounded as Chicago honored its veterans and America's military service members.

"It's great, it makes you feel good, warm inside on a cold day," said Lt. Michael Kerley, U.S. Navy.

On Monday morning, the city's Veteran's Day ceremony was once again held at Soldier Field.

"This is a solemn day. A reminder that we don't need to do our veterans a favor, but we must repay one," said Mayor Emanuel.

Four-star Gen. Robert Cone was the keynote speaker. Cone is the commander over the U.S. Army raining and Doctrine Command.

"Today's commemoration recognizes the continuity of sacrifice, commitment and patriotism seen in the generations of service represented here today," said Gen. Robert Cone, U.S. Army.

Amid the talk of dedication and sacrifice was the concerns of safety military family members know so well.

"The separation has been horrific. As proud as we are that he's doing what he's doing, it's so hard not having him here," said Lori Rios, military grandmother.

Many here said Monday's ceremony was not just about honoring veterans but also was a call to action to let people know that veterans are still very much in need.

Decorated Vietnam vet, 11th Ward Alderman Jim Balcer says Veterans Day ceremonies bring attention to the many vets who still struggle with homelessness, joblessness, and lack of medical care.

"Some people don't know, but know they know about PTSD, homelessness, unemployment, the VA care. These are important," said Ald. James Balcer, 11th Ward.

The emotional program included at wreath laying ceremony in front of the Doughboy statue-- a reminder to all, retired airmen Ken Johnson says, that freedom isn't free.

"The sacrifices that young men and women who have served our nation made we need to not only remember, but we need to understand they need help," said Lt. Col. Ken Johnson, retired U.S. Air Force.

Other cities, such as Aurora, held Veterans Day parades on Monday.

And among the many ways local vets were honored Monday, it was a day of appreciation at Chicago's Union Station. Volunteers put together care packages to be sent to service men and women in Afghanistan.

Organizers also created a "pop up" USO welcome center in the Great Hall at Union Station to provide lunch and other hospitality to veterans.

Politicians were expected to make appearances around the Chicago area. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn was expected to travel the state to launch this year's Veterans Cash lottery ticket, which benefits veterans organizations.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk will be in the Chicago suburb of Buffalo Grove. He plans to give World War II veteran George Boesen of Arlington Heights the medals he earned for his service but never received.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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