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lexalou asked for a favor and how could I say no? You see, it's a favor for veterans and I have a soft spot for those who serve their country. Could be because my father is a veteran. Could be that I'm married to an active duty Air Force Officer. Or it just could be that I honor and respect those that are willing to put the needs of their country before their own.

lexalou's request was simple - would I please spread the word about the CHICAGO WELCOMES HOME THE HEROES PARADE, planned to coincide with the one year anniversary of the end of the Iraq War.

You see, there's a slight problem with this parade - while the local vets are thrilled and signing up to march it seems the local civilians, not so much. And a parade isn't a parade without a crowd to watch it. Even The Chicago Sun-Times is worried that a similar St. Louis event, which brought out 100,000 spectators, will put Chicago to shame.

This event isn't a victory parade, of course. No one can even pretend that we left Iraq in victory. Afghanistan won't be any better. But victory isn't the concern here. Nor are politics. Politicians and businesses are welcome to attend, but not walk in the parade itself. The two planners of the event, Christopher De Phillips and Laurie Ipsen, have no ulterior motive. They just want to recognize our troops and their families (folks like me and my kids). Period. And they're going above and beyond. They have no experience planning a parade yet have managed to engage leadership all the way from the city of Chicago to the Pentagon. So far, the parade itself is looking good:

Veterans from World War II to the present have registered to participate. Floats for each branch of the military are nearing completion. Jim Cornelison of Blackhawks fame has agreed to sing the national anthem. Bill Kurtis has committed to be master of ceremonies.
All they need now is a crowd to watch the parade. Are you in?

Military families still think that after more than 10 years of war that the civilian community doesn't care. Parades like this are huge morale boosters, not just for veterans, but for their families and caregivers. Sometimes the best way to help people heal is let them know that they matter, that someone cares. And our vets need a lot of healing. This war has been detrimental to the minds as much as to the bodies. In the words of one vet,

“Veterans of these wars are living at an all-time high of homelessness and joblessness. You can’t throw a rock in this country without hitting dozens of heavily medicated veterans. But the general public cares less and less about them and us. For the general public, unless you have something personally invested in these wars they just want to get along with their day.  Without having to be reminded of what these men and women endure on a daily basis. Its unfathomable to them. Thus the widening gap grows.”
So here is what you need to do.

If you live in or near Chicago, attend the parade!

If you can't make it, then please spread the word. You may not know folks in the Windy City, but I bet a friend of a friend might. Talk about the event, tweet about the event, and share like crazy on Facebook. Let's help Chicago thank our veterans with the biggest Welcome Home Parade the US has seen yet.

The planners will have to foot the bill for the parade as that is part of the city requirement for holding one but that hasn't stopped them from pushing forward; if you'd like to help by making donation to the non-profit, Bugles Across America, please do. Excess donations will go to local Veteran Service organizations.

The event will actually begin on Friday night when a ceremony in Thompson Center Plaza will remember those that died in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Each name will be read a loud. Your attendance would be more than welcome.

During this ceremony, the names of the fallen from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars (approximately 6,525) will be read to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The reading will be dedicated to Gold Star Families and will begin at 9:11 am and continue until all the names have been read.

DATE: Friday, December 14, 2012
START TIME: 9:11 am
LOCATION: Thompson Center Outdoor Plaza

The following day, after the parade, veterans and their families can attend a resource fair at the Chicago Cultural Center. They will find resources for health, employment, and education, all organized by the staff at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. Please spread the word!
To help bridge the gap between Veterans and the resources available to them, we will be hosting a Veterans Resource Reception immediately following the parade. The Reception will focus on four key areas: Health, Employment, Education, and Community. The objective of the Veterans Resource Reception is to promote and facilitate sustained support for Veterans and their families.

DATE: Saturday, December 15, 2012
TIME: Immediately Following the Parade
LOCATION: Grand Army of the Republic Hall and Rotunda
at the Chicago Cultural Center

Just in case you need a reminder, here are the details of the parade itself!

After every war in modern U.S. history, we as a nation have honored our Veterans with parades, and now that the Iraq War has concluded, we want to recognize and honor this current group of Veterans in the same manner. Since the Iraq War ended in December, there has been a nation-wide movement of civilians organizing parades in cities like St. Louis, Richmond, and Minneapolis to welcome home and say thank you to Iraq Veterans, and we believe that Chicago should be the next city to hold such a parade.

While this parade will be dedicated to welcoming home Veterans who served during Post-9/11 wars, we would like to invite our entire military community to participate and be honored.

To mark the one year anniversary of the end of the Iraq War, the parade will be held on Saturday, December 15th.

DATE: Saturday, December 15, 2012
TIME: 12:00 pm
LOCATION: Columbus Drive between Balbo and Monroe

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