Chicago honors vets, active service members on Veterans Day - FOX 32 News Chicago

Chicago honors vets, active service members on Veterans Day

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

America honors veterans and active duty military for their sacrifice and service on Veterans Day. Union Station's Great Hall was decked out in red, white and blue to celebrate them on Monday.

Volunteers from 5th Third Bank made care packages for those currently serving our country and took a few moments to thank veterans as they stopped by the event.

The United Service Organization of Illinois organized a day of appreciation at Union Station, with the help of 5th Third bank. USO Illinois president Alison Ruble shared their mission with Good Day Chicago.

The pop-up USO center will be a place of resource and rest on Veterans Day. They're giving away a LayZBoy recliner and free gift cards to the first 125 active duty service men and women that attend the event.

Veterans Day was established by Dwight Eisenhower in 1954. It's a great way for American citizens to take the time to say thank you to the vets on a special day each year. But the USO hopes to show how we can thank the vets and our active duty military throughout the year.

"We feel so strongly now especially relevant for us to show our appreciation no matter what our service members are going through," Ruble said. "Men and women are still deploying in the longest war in our nation's history. A lot of the families are touched by this. It's organizations like the USO, completely privately funded and supported by the American people, which help support that person behind the uniform. That's what it's been for over 72 years for the USO."

One major issue veterans face when they come back home is finding a job.

Veterans Beer Company is creating work for vets and taking their favorite beverage to another level – all in the spirit of 1776. To some, beer is as American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.

Disabled Navy veteran Paul Jenkins is the president and CEO of Veteran Beer Company. As a naval aviator, Jenkins flew the skies over Iraq in Operation Desert Storm.

Chad Watson is the vice president of brand development. As a Marine, he signed up in the days after 9/11. Several years after that, he was part of the battle of Fallujah and was wounded from a roadside bomb. Watson spent 20 months recovering and is every bit as active today as he ever was.

The two wounded warriors and their vet colleagues call Veteran Beer Company "beer on a mission." They know all too well that America's best has had a hard time finding work after returning home from war - especially those who have been hurt. Unemployment is double the national average for civilians.

The company promises to employ only vets as they roll out their new brews. For every bottle sold, it will donate to organizations that help physically and mentally disabled servicemen and women.

"My goal is to have 100 veterans at the end of one year," Jenkins said. "Five hundred veterans hired at the end of three years and 3,500 at the end of five years."

"We were leaders overseas on the battlefield," Watson said. "When we come home they could be leaders in the civilian world as well."

You can find Veteran Beer Company brew on Chicago area store shelves near you.

Ceremonies and memorials are scheduled across Illinois to mark Veterans' Day.

In Chicago four-star Gen. Robert Cone spoke at the city's Veterans' Day ceremony at Soldier Field. Cone is the commander over the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

Other cities, including Aurora, hosted Veterans' Day parades. In Springfield, the parade went to the Illinois Capitol. A ceremony was held afterward in the rotunda.

Illinois lawmakers made appearances as well. U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk was in the Chicago suburb of Buffalo Grove. He gave World War II veteran George Boesen of Arlington Heights the medals he earned for his service, but never received.

President Obama attended a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day. But he began the day with a very special veteran.

At age 107, Richard Overton is believed to be the oldest known American WWII veteran. Overton had breakfast with the president. And accompanied him to Arlington for the ceremony.

Take a moment to thank a vet today.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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