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Editorial: Dec. 15 parade honors post-9/11 veterans

Gene Kuffel Niles U.S. Army veteran listens speeches during Veteran's Day ceremony Sunday Niles Veteran's Memorial. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media

Gene Kuffel of Niles, a U.S. Army veteran, listens to speeches during the Veteran's Day ceremony Sunday at the Niles Veteran's Memorial. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 13, 2012 10:23AM

Johnny is marching home again — all our brave young men and women — and we cannot do enough for them.

We cannot give them too much medical care, too much free tuition, too many handshakes and hugs. We cannot applaud enough when they walk through airports in uniform. We cannot escort them quickly enough to the front of the line for jobs.

They are home from Iraq and coming back from Afghanistan, most of them blessedly whole in body and soul. But some move in wheelchairs, others with white canes. Some sleep again in their childhood beds, but anybody can see something is wrong. They have dreams, not good ones.

On Dec. 15, a parade will be held in Chicago to honor these post-9/11 veterans, as well as active servicemen and women and their families. We sure hope to see you there. The Grant Park parade, organized by two ordinary Chicagoans, will mark the first anniversary of the official end of the Iraq War.

Why a parade now? Because American soldiers once came home from another war, in Vietnam, and our nation shamefully waited 11 years, until 1986, to finally have a parade and welcome them home. Only then, many of those gray-haired vets will tell you know, did they feel they could move on.

“When you leave the military,” said Christopher De Phillips, one of the parade organizers, “you leave an environment where there is all this community, and you come home and there is no community. It’s up to us to say to them, ‘Hey, there is a community here. We are your community.’ ”

In the last year, a handful of parades honoring post-9/11 veterans have been held. Chicago’s parade likely will be the biggest, so veterans around the country are planning to be there.

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