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Veterans Plan To Return Medals During NATO Summit Protest

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Aaron Hughes, who served in the Army National Guard from 2000 to 2006, says he and other veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are planning to return their service medals to NATO generals during a protest at the NATO summit on May 20, 2012. (Credit: CBS)

Aaron Hughes, who served in the Army National Guard from 2000 to 2006, says he and other veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are planning to return their service medals to NATO generals during a protest at the NATO summit on May 20, 2012. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Several veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan plan to hold a ceremony during a protest of the NATO summit on Sunday, and return their service medals to the NATO generals.

WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports the veterans feel conflicted about their plan to return their service medals, but they feel they must. They plan to give back their medals during the large anti-NATO protest scheduled for the first day of the summit on May 20.

“Every veteran that’s taking this step, I think, is taking a large step outside of anyone’s service zone,” said Iraq War veteran Aaron Hughes.

Hughes said he’s proud of serving his country, but not of the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser Reports

“These generals that are leading NATO, they’re saying, ‘Oh, we’re building democracy, we’re building freedom.’ We’re not,” he said. “I think everybody in this country, we all need to take a minute to stop and ask ourselves ‘What have we been doing?’”

It’s not about nation-building, Hughes said, but a charade.

“They lie and they perpetuate that by giving us these tokens, these token medals,” Hughes said. “I don’t want to be part of a charade anymore, and I don’t want to be a part of a mistake anymore, and I know a lot of other service members that don’t want to be a part of a mistake anymore.”

Hughes said it’s about healing. On average, 18 veterans commit suicide every day.

There’s a mental health crisis for veterans, according to Hughes, and they are not being properly cared for when they return from war.

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