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Vets work through art, health care to get their concerns heard

Gerald L. Buldak plays bugle Sunday Veterans Day service Rosehill Cemetery 5800 N. Ravenswood  Chicago.  |  Al

Gerald L. Buldak plays the bugle Sunday at a Veterans Day service at Rosehill Cemetery, 5800 N. Ravenswood, in Chicago. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times photos

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Updated: December 13, 2012 10:32AM

Ash Kyrie, an Iraq War veteran and combat engineer-turned-artist, wants people to realize a daily connection with military veterans and their sacrifices, much like when Americans planted Patriot Gardens to cover food shortages in World War II.

“We need to feel it in our hearts and feel the losses every single day, because our soldiers are contributing and they are feeling the loss” of combat deaths, Kyrie, 32, told an Armistice Day ceremony hosted by Veterans for Peace at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Riverwalk downtown Sunday.

While the veterans gathered in downtown Chicago, military re-enactors in uniforms from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War fired cannons, marched in a parade and held a remembrance ceremony at Rosehill Cemetery, 5800 N. Ravenswood, which contains graves of the fallen from all of America’s wars, including a large number from the Civil War.

The two events were among dozens of Veterans Day events Sunday to honor those who served.

At a ceremony to dedicate a veterans plaza in Tinley Park, at least three people fell ill, including an elderly veteran who was taken by ambulance to a hospital. A teenage member of a color guard unit was treated by paramedics but did not require hospitalization. He had reportedly been ill before the event. The third person who became ill was not hospitalized.

Gov. Pat Quinn unveiled a “Portrait of a Soldier” traveling art exhibit that features hand-drawn portraits of each of 300 Illinois service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The exhibit is at Navy Pier’s Family Pavilion through Tuesday.

The National Veterans Art Museum celebrated its reopening in its new home, 4041 N. Milwaukee, after moving from its space in the South Loop.

Kyrie, who uses his art to help people deal with the trauma of war, is exhibiting his work at the museum.

After being deployed to Iraq in May 2003 as a member of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, Kyrie worked security for Civil Affairs, a wing of the U.S. Army Special Forces, and operated radio transmissions while traveling in Humvees on duty.

“What I saw changed my outlook on life, showed me war is a waste of our time and resources and a waste of our lives,” he said, recalling the day he realized that an Iraqi farmer he saw each daily planting wheat was no different than his family of farmers who plant corn.

The local chapter of Veterans for Peace, a longtime advocate for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, supports art as a means of healing and is working with the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center to improve staffing of nurses and the women’s clinic , said spokesman Aaron Hughes, 30, a former Illinois Army National Guard member and Iraq War veteran.

At Rosehill Cemetery, the 17th annual Veterans Day re-enactment featured songs, phrases and writings that similarly helped veterans cope.

Readings from President Abraham Lincoln’s unsent letters to his generals showed how Lincoln vented his frustration at the lack of progress in the Civil War, said Diane Comer, general manager of Rosehill Cemetery.

The letters allowed Lincoln to get out his anger and disappointment, as therapists urge people today to write down their frustrations and then throw the writings away, she said.

Songs helped cope with military food, too, such as the Confederate Army’s “Eatin’ Goober Peas,” which makes fun of the misery of depending on boiled peanuts as a steady diet. And the Andrews Sisters’ “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” played its own role in keeping up morale just as America had started a peacetime draft before World War II.

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