Iraq, Afghan War Vets Toss Away Their Medals

You don't win the hearts and minds by doing night raids

Dozens of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans who say NATO's military policies are a failure took their combat medals and threw them away in a symbolic event following a rally and march.

The vets literally tossed their medals when the march stopped near McCormick Place where dignitaries, world leaders and NATO brass were discussing world events.

Veterans took the microphone one-by-one at a rally after a more than 2-mile march to the summit site from a downtown Chicago park.

One veteran was 30-year-old Erica Slone of Cambridge, Ohio. Slone says her service taught her integrity and if she wants to live with integrity she has to get rid of her ribbon.

Other demonstrators have said they are upset with the war in Afghanistan, climate change, the erosion of union rights -- and dozens of other issues.

Some protesters are calling for the dissolution of NATO, the 63-year-old military alliance.

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

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.

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Copyright AP - Associated Press
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