Hundreds of veterans in Chicago Heights honored at holiday dinner on Christmas Eve

CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. (WLS) -- Hundreds of veterans were honored for their sacrifices with a holiday meal in Chicago's south suburbs Tuesday.

With their family and friends by their sides, more than 100 veterans gathered at the United Auto Workers Hall in Chicago Heights for the fifth annual Adopt-A-Vet program holiday dinner.

Veterans received a unique honor; one Vietnam veteran Joe Sendejas said he never saw after he returned home from the war.

"When we came back from the veteran war, from Vietnam, we didn't get any kind of recognition," said Sendejas, who served in the Navy.

But recognition, thanks and respect for U.S. veterans was in full supply Tuesday afternoon.

"This is just one of six or seven that are done throughout the year and Barb is the spirit behind it," said Nobert Wilkening, the event's sponsor.

Southland Voice Publisher Barb Dorman, the daughter of a Korean War Veteran, started the Adopt-A-Vet program in 2015.

"I found that they have a hard time getting help, getting recognized and getting honored, so I just made it my mission to make sure they get a little recognition," Dorman said.

Veterans weren't only honored, they were treated to a holiday meal, received prizes, donations, free haircuts and spent time reuniting with fellow comrades.

"Meet so many veterans that I haven't seen for years, yeah, it's beautiful," said World War II veteran Willie T. Hale.

"It does help to get all the veterans together from the area you know," said Korean War Veteran Gerhard Henning. "A lot of areas don't even do this anymore."

They also shared war stories, adding a little bit of therapy to what can be a difficult time of year for veterans.

"It's needed because I don't we have support and we don't say thank you enough to our vets," said Local 588 UAW President Bill Jackson.

That wasn't the case Tuesday, many volunteers shook hands, offered thanks and cheer to all of those who sacrificed so much for our nation.
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