Veterans call for public access to North Park military memorial being used as migrant shelter

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Saturday, May 18, 2024
Veterans call for access to NW Side memorial used as migrant shelter
Veterans gathered Friday to call for public access to a North Park U.S. Marine Corps military memorial being used as a Chicago migrant shelter.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A group of passionate veterans gathered Friday in the North Park neighborhood calling for access to a memorial recognizing more than a dozen servicemen who gave the ultimate sacrifice defending our nation.

The former Marine Corps building is now a migrant housing center that is not open to the public.

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The veterans came from far and wide, some from other states, and all gathered to honor 16 men who gave the last full measure of devotion. But for now, the former fighters are fettered.

"We do not have access to paying respects and homage to the men that gave their lives in the deployments in 2004 and in 2008," said U.S. Marine Corps veteran Sgt. Tim Jensen.

After the Marine Corps left the site several years ago, those wishing to pay their respects at the three-pillared memorial still had periodic access, until the building began use last year as migrant housing with no public entry.

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"We are apolitical people. What we care about is the sanctity and the reverence of the community and the remembrance of our brothers that lost their lives," Jensen said.

Jensen, who served in the second battalion 24th Marines, the unit honored at the memorial, is leading the charge for renewed access with comrades like Sgt. Stephen Chassee.

"I've been to retirement ceremonies here," Chassee said. "I've been to reenlistment ceremonies here. We can't do anything in there. We can't even come pay homage on Memorial Day. So that's a big problem."

Just moments after the gathering began, the Mayor Brandon Johnson's office released a statement saying they are partnering with the veterans, and "exploring potential new sites, such as the Lakefront and the Riverwalk, to enhance access and visibility for all."

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"It takes a rally... it takes an organization to come together to really make noise about it before people start paying attention sometimes, and it's great that the city and the alderman are stepping up and picking up the ball," Chassee said.

While the city did not provide a timeline for potentially moving the monument, the veterans said they are thankful and hopeful for real access to honor the fallen.