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Updated: January 11, 2013 6:08AM



Welcome home heroes
with Chicago parade

The first time I ever considered joining the military was on 9/11. I was only 15, but I knew then that I could — and needed to — do something for my country. So I joined the Marines right after high school, looking for a challenge, wanting to become a man.

Still a teen, I was deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom. I eventually made a second deployment to Iraq before I completed duty and returned to Chicago. The recruiter made clear to me that this would be the most difficult experience of my life. He was right! But, the hardest thing since the military was readjusting to civilian life.

I felt comfortable when I returned to Chicago. I had all of this experience at such a young age. I knew my skills would be helpful to employers, but I struggled to find a job. I interviewed and saw the conversation change when I mentioned the Marines. It seems to me that many employers unfairly believe that veterans are emotionally unstable, and that’s why they have difficulty making the transition back into civilian life. That’s wrong, and it’s unacceptable.

Five years in the military sharpened my leadership abilities, taught me self-reliance, made me appreciate the importance of teamwork and fostered such qualities as honor, courage and commitment. No veteran wants a handout; we just want an opportunity to put our skills to use back here at home. I firmly believe that our returning veterans can be tremendous assets to any company or organization fortunate enough to acquire their services.

I almost cried a year ago watching the last troops leave Iraq on TV. After hearing news of different parades around the country to honor post-9/11 veterans, I searched for one in Chicago and learned that there was none. That situation changed when two civilians with no military ties secured permission from the city of Chicago to conduct a parade on Dec. 15 at noon, down Columbus Drive, from Balbo to Monroe. It is overwhelming for me to know that there are people out there who do care.

So what did I do? I stepped forward to bring all those skills earned through my military experience — and the communications skills I’m learning in college — to volunteer to help get the word out about the parade.

What can you do? Turn out in record numbers to honor all of our post-9/11 veterans, encourage all those still fighting in Afghanistan and remember our heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Visit www.chicagowelcomeshometheheroes.org or www.facebook.com/chicagowhh to learn more.

And to my fellow veterans, especially those most recent vets who may feel disengaged, we need you, too. You owe it to your brothers and sisters who have lost their lives, those who are still fighting and to yourselves. You deserve this!

Come on, Chicago, let’s welcome home the heroes!

Shawn Riley

Former Lance Corporal, USMC, 2004-09

Columbia College of Chicago, Class of 2015

How to have a party
with Aurora’s bridges

That’s a cool winter idea--a party on a bridge. In old Yugoslavia, they used to have a swimming event every year, at Mostar Bridge, but we couldn’t quite do that here.

Howerver, in central Europe, in a city no longer on the map, there used to be a medieval puzzle called The Seven Bridges of Koenigsburg.

The challenge was to start from a certain tavern and hike across seven bridges — without crossing your own path. In the eighteenth century a good mathematician, Leonhard Euler, studied the problem and concluded that: it couldn’t be done.

Now, Aurora, has a similar complex of bridges, and hikers could start at the River’s Edge restaurant and create a similar challenge.

First, contestants should recite the poem by Edgar Guest; “It Couldn’t Be Done.” Loser’s should recite the profound version of Guest’s work — by Benny Hill.

There are likely many good people in Aurora University who are familiar with the Euler problem. The Euler Trek could become an annual winter event here. It is not a race — but bikes, skate boards and kayaks would be welcome. The event should end with acannon blast from the G.A.R., to recall lost hikers.

It’s going to be a long winter!

John Heinz

Aurora



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