People unite in biggest protest to cheer on anti-war vets

Veterans give back medals in anti-NATO protest

May 20, 2012

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(WBEZ/Charlie Billups)
Veterans for Peace at the start of Sunday's march at Columbus and Jackson avenues.
(WBEZ/Charlie Billups)
One of the several dozen former military members who returned medals in a symbolic anti-NATO protest on Sunday.

People have been touting various causes over the weekend in their protests against the NATO summit. But many of them paused at the end of the biggest protest to cheer for military veterans who now oppose the war.

As the familiar military tune Taps played on Sunday, former Iraq and Afghanistan military veterans began their ceremony in front of a crowd of thousands by folded up a flag they presented to Mary Kirkland, the mother of one soldier who committed suicide. Kirkland said although the U.S. Department of Defense described her son as "killed in action", he had tried to commit suicide several times before he succeeded in his barracks.

One by one, dozens of male and female veterans, some choking back tears, especially as they named other veterans who had died, told their stories and then chucked their medals onto an empty street behind them.

"I am deeply sorry for the destruction we have caused in those countries and around the globe," said Army combat medic Jason Hurd, who, like many, apologized.

The Iraq and Afghan vets were surrounded by older veterans, including soliders who fought in engagements decades ago and also now oppose the war.

But some of the loudest cheers came for former Marine Vince Emmanuelli, who said:

"Our enemies are right here and we look at them every day. They are not the men and women who are standing on this police line, they are the millionaires and billionaires who control this planet and we’ve had enough of it."

Emmanuelli said they could take their medals back.