Two weeks before the country officially honors veterans on Memorial Day, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) joined representatives from a hospice care provider to honor veterans living at an Austin nursing home.

A group of veterans at the Mayfield Care Center, 5905 W. Washington Blvd., met last week with Taliaferro and David Cazaplicki and Carrie Datz from Heartland during a 2-hour celebration that included refreshments and each veteran receiving a certificate of recognition.

A veteran himself after serving in the U.S. Marines, Taliaferro said he wanted to recognize his local veterans before Memorial Day because veterans deserve to be honored every day.

“We should not go a long time without recognizing our veterans. And certainly we should not wait until Memorial Day to recognize our veterans,” said Taliaferro. “Their work and labor for this country is enough to always recognize them.”

Veteran James Bradley said one reason why veterans are not recognized for their service more is because people don’t really know what they do.

“The duties and role of military personnel is not publicized like it should. If people knew what veterans went through while serving our country they would be thanking us every day,” said Army veteran Bradley, 85. “We have killed for this country. We have been injured for this country and even died for this country. And all we get is one day a year to be honored.”

Datz, who has served in the National Guard for the past 13 years, moderated the event.

“Our veterans deserve this [recognition ceremony] and more needs to be done to show how much they are appreciated for their sacrifices,” said Datz. “It’s always a joy when I can participate in programs that honor our veterans and the work they have done.”

Andrea Williams, activity director for the Mayfield Center, organized the event and said she plans to make it an annual celebration.

“I’ve only been working here a short while but I do know that our veterans deserve this and I will work to make sure this continues each year,” said Williams. “While this gesture is nice I don’t think we, as citizens, will ever be able to do enough to thank our veterans for their sacrifices. That’s why we [as a country] should be honoring them every chance we get.”

However, Williams said she is bothered by the violence in Austin, which prevents residents at the facility from going outside.

“We can’t have them sitting outside if there’s shooting going on. No one wants to be inside all the time,” she added. “A breath of fresh air is needed but that’s not possible when there’s violence plaguing our neighborhood.”

Taliaferro agreed.

“We have to get back to community policing if we are going to curb violence. We can reduce violence with more community policing, more resources for the police and more involvement from the community,” said Taliaferro.

Emanuel Carter, another veteran at the Mayfair Center, said he served in the Army and fought in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

“I am not afraid of violence because I have seen it up close in combat when I had to step over dead bodies,” recalled Carter. “Yes, there’s a lot of shooting that takes place on the West Side, but it’s nothing compared to being in the military. Anybody that survived being in the military should be recognized and honored all the time.”

Alderman to host Austin successes event in July

The 29th Ward alderman wants to shine a light on some of the community's success stories with a public event planned for this summer.

Ald. Chris Taliaferro will host "Austin Successes" in July at Austin Town Hall. The details are still being worked out, but the alderman shared his plan with constituents last week at his North Avenue office.

Austin natives who've gone on to successful careers are being lined up to speak at the event, Taliaferro said. The alderman made the announcement during the On the Table community conversation event that he and thousands of Chicago-area residents participated in May 16.

Sponsored by The Chicago Community Trust, the annual event brings out residents to discuss issues and network with one another. Just a few residents came out to Taliaferro's community office at 6272 W. North Avenue in Galewood. But dozens gathered at the Columbus Park Refectory in Austin.

Some of the other topics discussed at Taliaferro's event included ridding the streets of drug selling and engaging more youth in positive activities. Taliaferro said his Austin Successes event is aimed particularly at young people.

Taliaferro said he was glad to host an On the Table talk even if only a few people were able to make it to his event.

Conversations took place at other West Side locations, such as North Lawndale's Carey Tercentenary AME Church, where the discussion focused on how churches can affect positive change in the community, with some ideas including developing programs for youth and adults to interact.

Valerie Leonard, a community organizer and host at Carey, said their group will meet again to develop some solutions on what was discussed.