The idea for a big community-wide homecoming for all veterans came to Joyce Campbell straight from President Barack Obama. Or at least, from his Oct. 21, 2011 announcement that all US troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by year's end.
"I immediately envisioned tons of "Welcome Home" parties to celebrate the return of all these military members," said Campbell of Grayslake, a military mom and community organizer. "But then it made me wonder how many people might be coming home that we just don't know about, who don't get the big welcome home they deserve."
She couldn't live with that. So Campbell, director and founder of , launched the Grayslake Salutes “Welcome Home” event. It will be held from 1-4 p.m. Jan. 8, 2012 for all military service members who have served in any overseas war. This event is free and open to all military veterans from all branches, active or retired, and their families.
"I know we as a country do good welcoming home our military now, but I also know that we completely missed the boat welcoming people home from VIetnam," she said. "That was wrong. They deserve a big, warm "Welcome Home" too."
Campbell posted a simple message on Facebook to see who would be interested in the idea.
"We had 25 people at our first planning meeting, and another 20 who said they would help," she said. "Then it just kept rolling. It kind of snowballed from there."
So far, nearly every local organization is on board including the Grayslake Chamber of Commerce, Grayslake Lions Club, Grayslake Exhcange Club, Grayslake Rotary, Grayslake Kiwanis, the Grayslake Library and the Grayslake Farmers Market. The Grayslake Fire Department and the Grayslake Police are in.
"These are the sons and daughters of our community," said Grayslake Police Chief Matt McCutcheon. "It is our duty to provide them with the tools they need to assimilate back into civilian life after making such great sacrifice for all of us. Grayslake is a patriotic community and we wish to extend a very heartfelt THANK YOU to these brave soldiers, and welcome them home. We also want to recognize the service of veterans from all foreign wars. I think this will be a great event."
The Grayslake Veterans of Foreign War and American Legion posts plan to participate, as will the Illinois Patriot Guard Riders, College of Lake County, Grayslake Park District, Grayslake Historical Society, Scouting troops, village officials, MPower Now, Rising Sun Lodge and High School District 127, and many others.
"Our challenge is going to be finding all of our active military members and any veterans to come as our guests, along with their families," Campbell said. "Our goal is to give a great big community hug to all those who fought for our freedom."
The event will also provide a forum for veterans to provide help with resources, networking opportunities for employment and education, Veteran’s Administration
benefits, and support for making the difficult adjustment from serving in a war zone to civilian life.
The event will be held between three neighboring locations:
"We want the whole community involved as much as possible," Campbell said. "When people enter this event, they will be greated with the warmth and gratittude that they deserve."
Here are four easy ways to get involved:
- FIND - Find veterans and active miliatry members from this community. Invite them to the event.
- LIKE - Like the GrayslakeSalutes Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/GrayslakeSalutes and share the link with your social networks. Repost this article to help spread the word.
- DO - If anyone wants to do a hands-on project with children, such as teachers or day care providers, kids could write thank you letters to military members or draw pictures for them. These will be prominently displayed at the Oasis during the event.
- GIVE - Donations at any level wil help sponsor the event.
For more information, email Joyce Campbell at email@example.com.