Veterans honored in Chicago, suburbs

November 11, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Chicago marked Veterans Day with a tribute at Soldier Field. The program featured a wreath laying and a gun salute. Mayor Rahm Emanuel was on hand to deliver remarks, and he was joined by Gov. Pat Quinn, Sen. Dick Durbin and other local politicians. The theme was also to remember that for the soldiers, sailors, and pilots returning from America's current wars they need to fit back into civilian life.

"Ninety-nine percent of us are kept free, kept secure and kept safe by just 1 percent, and never has so much been asked of so few."

Mayor Emanuel was sounding the theme of the day that this country's all-volunteer Army has gone through a lot in Iraq and Afghanistan. Back home, more than 12 percent of them cannot find jobs.

"As our president said, our commander in chief, they already fought for our country, they need not have to fight for a job. And as I have said before, we don't owe veterans a favor, we must repay one."

Gov. Quinn also stressed the importance of hiring vets.

"All of us must work together on the home front, good jobs, good paying jobs, for those who have borne the battle, that's our mission, that's what we owe all our veterans," said Quinn.

Purple Heart recipient Danielle Green-Byrd, who was in Iraq when three rocket-propelled grenades exploded near her, was the keynote speaker at the memorial.

"Later on I found out at the green zone hospital that my left arm was blown off and buried under seven inches of sand. But two good things happened that day. God has spared my life and my wedding rings were retrieved," said Green-Byrd.

She told ABC7 she has picked herself up, has two master's degrees, allowing her to counsel and help returning veterans.

"I just hope we will have everything in place to help them with employment, help them with behavioral health issues, help them with their families, because it's tough, it's a real big transition," said Green-Byrd.

Other events marking the holiday took place throughout Chicago and its suburbs.

On the city's South Side, the 85th Annual African American Veterans Day Parade kicked off with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle as Grand Marshal.

At Union Station, children got out their crayons to write cards to soldiers overseas.

"Thank you for saving our country and risking your life for us and making our country a better place," said letter writer Ella Fredrickson.

"I'm thinking they serve us with great care, and they risk their lived for our lives," said letter writer Teagan Macnaught.

Fifth Third Bank employees packed more than 500 care packages for U.S. service members. Joaquin Miranda is one of them, and he knows what it's like to be on the receiving end because he's a veteran himself.

"When you get something like this, you know it's someone actually thinking about you and has you in their thoughts and it's probably someone you never met and it makes you feel like, 'I'm actually appreciated for what I'm doing,'" Miranda said.

Bill Erzig, 80, who served in Korea and Japan, got emotional at the Union Station festivities.

"I think of all the guys that didn't come back and it's real nice to see all this. I wish they would have been here to see how people appreciated their service," Erzig said.

There's also dozens of events in Chicago's suburbs marking Veterans Day. In Aurora, there will be a parade starting at Broadway and Benton, followed by a ceremony honoring those that served. Also, Wheaton North High School will honor an alum who died in Afghanistan. The commons area will be named in honor of Sgt. Rob J. Miller.

Help headed to jobless vets across America
Also, help is on the way for unemployed veterans and government contractors. The U.S. Senate has passed a bill that would award tax credits of up to $9,600 to companies that hire disabled veterans who have been job-hunting for at least six months.

New figures show unemployment for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan stands at 12.1 percent. For the rest of the country, it's 9 percent. Its all part of President Barack Obama's jobs agenda.

On Veterans Day, Obama hosted a veterans breakfast at the White House. He then visited the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath and speak at a ceremony.

First Lady Michelle Obama also announced that American corporations have promised to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014.

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