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On Memorial Day, these vets say it’s time to give peace a chance

They also pushed for improvements to the veterans’ health care system.

A woman throws a rose into the Chicago River
A woman throws a rose into the Chicago River after an anti-war protest on Memorial Day.
Rachel Hinton

Steps away from Chicago’s Vietnam War Memorial, anti-war activists gathered Monday morning to call for improved social services for veterans and to oppose the “endless war” they say America has found itself in.

“My war has now become what some would call the forever war,” said Aaron Hughes, who served with the Illinois National Guard in Afghanistan. “A forever war for what?”

“Let’s stop investing in war and military contracts and instead invest in our future, let’s make a new deal with ourselves and with the earth we live in … and let us start that right here with challenging our own city to [not] give tax breaks to war profiteers.”

Against the backdrop of the memorial — and with Trump International Hotel & Tower looming just across the Chicago River — about 30 people listened to Hughes and other activists with groups like Veterans Against the War call on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to end tax breaks for Boeing, which has its headquarters in Chicago and makes weapons for the U.S. military.

Then, some of the protesters dropped roses and other flowers into the Chicago River in remembrance of veterans who have died.

Other speakers warned against being drawn into new conflicts with Iran or Venezuela, or touched on the importance of supporting veterans after they come home from war.

Adelena Marshall, a member of National Nurses United who has worked for a Veteran’s Affairs hospital for over 20 years, said VA hospitals need more registered nurses and support staff to “provide the care that our veterans so deserve.”

“A healthy VA means a healthy vet,” Marshall said. “The voices of the RNs need to be heard because we advocate for that care that the veterans are receiving.”

Margaret Nelson’s one-on-one experience with a Vietnam veteran changed her mind about war. The man taught her to make puppets after returning to the states, but suffered from PTSD. She hopes people think about the consequences of war — if not for themselves, for future generations, because “every kid needs peace,” she said.

“When war is over, it’s not over,” Nelson said. “War is a disaster. If we go back to flinging nukes at each other, we’re all toast.”