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Memorial Day ceremonies duel in Chicago

Christopher Allen, a sophomore at Chicago’s Senn High School, participates in the Grant Park ceremony as part of a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps color guard. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)

Veterans and their supporters held dueling midday Memorial Day events in downtown Chicago, each drawing about 100 people.

A gathering in Grant Park honored 12 Illinois soldiers killed in the past year. A few blocks north, some antiwar veterans and their supporters marked the holiday by honoring civilians killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 12 are among 243 service members from the state who’ve fallen since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began. In their memory, relatives, military officials and veterans laid wreaths at a park monument honoring John A. Logan, a Civil War general from Illinois who led the movement to make Memorial Day a holiday.

Rev. George Clements, a Roman Catholic priest, led the group in prayer. “Greater love than this no man hath than that he lay down his life for his friends,” Clements said, paraphrasing a Bible verse. “What we ask, almighty God on this day, is to make each and every one of us their friends. Put our arms of love around these men and women who have defended our nation.”

As a bugler played “Taps” near the Logan monument, the competing event was underway at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial along the Chicago River.

Former Marine infantryman Vincent Emanuele, a Chicago native who served two tours in Iraq, said the antiwar event’s main purpose was honoring hundreds of thousands of civilians killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“There’s been millions of people displaced,” said Emanuele, an Iraq Veterans Against the War member. “Their infrastructure, their grid, their economy, their education system is completely destroyed. We’re countering the dominant narrative of, ‘Let’s just remember the men and women who served from the United States.’ Our event was a way to talk about the other people who died in these conflicts.”

The antiwar veterans threw flowers into the river.

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