Veterans honored at opening of Austin peace garden

CHICAGO (WLS) -- While they are home from war, some veterans in the city's Austin neighborhood feel like they're in the middle of a new battle - for peace.

Friday they got a new honor along with a new place to help the community feel safe.

A group of Austin residents celebrated the veterans who live in their community with a peace garden in an effort to acknowledge their sacrifices while giving their West Side community a safe space free from violence.

Vietnam veteran and West Side resident Frank Anderson said it's great to be honored.

"It feels good," he said. "I seen it when they first starting putting the area up here. It's good."

Veterans, residents, local politicians and others were all in attendance as the 29th Ward Veterans Peace Garden was unveiled during a Flag Day ceremony.

Nestled in Austin and located along busy Madison Street, the communal garden features a gazebo and green space, and is dedicated to those who've served in the armed forces.

"This is just a small token to show our appreciation," said 29th Ward Alderman Chris Taliaferro.

The process of making this peace garden a reality began nearly three years ago after the South Austin Neighborhood Association acquired the property with the help of a non-profit.

"This was just a vision and a dream that came to fruition and we are so very proud of it," said Cassandra Norman, South Austin Neighborhood Association.

The project was paid for with donations and a combination of public and private dollars.

Those that made the garden possible said this space is not just for veterans, it's also an oasis for this West Side neighborhood.

Some residents hope the garden will become a safe space for those fearful of gang and gun violence plaguing many of Chicago's neighborhoods.

"This is ours," said Gayinga Washington, Austin resident. "We're taking peace back into our community. We're going to take it back."

The hope is if the neighborhood really uses and enjoys the garden, residents will be inspired to create other safe spaces as well.
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