When we think of supermarkets we think of buying food items, shopping carts and cashiers ringing up our bills. But what do we know about the needs of our men and women who have served or are currently serving in the military?

On Saturday, July 9, Chicago’s Navy Pier was the site of the first “Supermarket of Veteran Benefits.” Over 12,000 veterans and their families turned out for the supermarket of information, admission free for all attendees. Loads of free items were given away, everything from Krispy Kreme Donuts to hot dogs to forms and booklets for the veterans.

The event was hosted by Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the Illinois Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs. NBC 5 locally was the sole TV media outlet sponsor along with Clear Channel stations for radio. There were many other sponsors, too numerous to name. The 6-month awareness campaign in Chicago will target more than 600,000 veterans in the Chicagoland area and 1.1 million in the state of Illinois.

The Supermarket of Veterans Benefits (SVB) was conceived and started by Sterling Moody, CEO & president of Supreme Consulting Group. When Mr. Sterling and his senior vice president, Steven Conley, presented the idea for a “Veterans Supermarket” to Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, they immediately got on board. It is not unusual to see Lt. Gov. Quinn attending everything from funerals to parades honoring veterans around the state.

Moody’s company is devoted to supporting our veterans. “Supreme Consulting understands that America is facing enormous challenges around the world, but we face a very serious challenge also right here at home. That challenge is our need to be certain that our veterans and returning troops are treated with honor, dignity and respect,” Moody said.

Saturday’s event brought out well known activist/entertainer Dick Gregory, who is also a personal friend of Sterling’s; Fr. George Clements, who single-handed has been responsible for thousands of adoptions in the black community; former Chicago Bear “Coach” Mike Ditka; and NBC 5’s President Larry Wert. Chicago’s own Chi-Lites provided the evening entertainment.

Dick Gregory, who is also a veteran, commented:

“I’d really not like to be here. But somebody has to say to America: “I dare you to treat this group of people the way they get treated. Sixty-eight percent of all the homeless people in America are veterans, and 42 percent got mental problems. So I blame all the American people who wave their flags to get their young folks to the frontline of battle. And when they come back home, they can’t wave that same flag to see to it that they get treated right, so that means that it’s not a flag you’re waving but a rag.

“Think about the Germans who we fought, the Vietnamese, Koreans”many of them are here in this country doing better than veterans. Children in schools, they got businesses, they got loans, so I would just hope that someone would come and organize the veterans the way Martin Luther King, NAACP and the Urban League organized black folks.”

[My children] have been told that if they go anywhere where they willingly know they are going to kill somebody, they can’t come back to my house. There’s something wrong [when] the same German that could have killed my daddy during World War II, can come to Chicago right today and live and work where my daddy can’t live and work. But I don’t blame white folks, I blame me. … I’m stupid enough to tolerate that. [If] I’m stupid enough to come to your restaurant and order the best on the menu and you bring me dog food, and I pay for it and eat it with a smile, then I can’t blame you.”

Fr. George Clements said:

“I’m here for two major reasons. One is, I firmly believe that every veteran should have the word ‘veteran’ on their driving license. I feel they are due discounts. When they go into a theater, they should get a discount. When they go to a restaurant, wherever they go, whatever they do, when they’re going to stores, they should get a discount. I don’t care what it is”tuition for school”they should have a discount on anything. The reason I say that is because they have actually put their lives on the line. They are subject to death, and as our Lord said, ‘No greater love than this, that a man give up his life for his friend.’ I believe very firmly in that.

“Also, I feel we should have our churches strongly behind our veterans, and I want an organization to start called ‘One Church, One Veteran,’ so that every church would pay tribute to veterans. There should be at least one Sunday set aside at every church in which all the veterans should be called up to the altar and the whole church applaud them and give them some token, showing how much we care about them. The church bulletin should have their names in there and their pictures showing who they are in that particular church. The churches should also back up any drives in which the veterans would be getting some kind of benefits. And by the way, I’m very much opposed to that word ‘benefit.’ This is an obligation, not really a benefit. Our nation owes it to them, and I hope that our churches will all back me up. These people have given their all for us.”