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Iraq, Afghanistan War Veterans to Protest NATO

Veterans say they intend to return their medals in protest of U.S. and NATO military policy

By Phil Rogers
|  Wednesday, May 9, 2012  |  Updated 10:38 AM CDT
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Honoring Chicagoland's Fallen Heroes

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This Friday April 1, 2011 picture shows local villagers in Tarok Kolache, Afghanistan near the grand opening of a new mosque which will replace one destroyed by NATO in fighting a year earlier.

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Among the thousands of protesters who will march and rally in Chicago later this month during the NATO Summit will be dozens of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans who say the multi-national organization's military policies are a failure.

So much so that they said they intend to return their medals in protest when their Sunday march reaches McCormick Place.

"We see that the global war on terrorism is a failed policy and we don't want to be part of that mistake anymore," said Aaron Hughes, who served in Iraq in 2003.

Alejandro Villatoro, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, felt especially compassionate about the people of Afghanistan. He said NATO's actions have resulted in a loss of trust.

"You don't win the hearts and minds by doing night raids. It's an insult to their culture," said Villatoro.

Both said they're proud of the men and women with whom they served, but not of missions they were asked to perform.

Hughes said he especially wants to call attention to the medical needs of American servicemen and women who are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or are the victims of sexual assault. He said that too many are not having their needs addressed and instead are often being returned to combat.

"That's because of the generals and their failed policies, and not because of the service members. That's why we're going to march on NATO, and that's what this is really about. It's about them acknowledging that they made a mistake," he said.

NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen travels to the United States on Wednesday for talks with President Obama.

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