Aaron Hughes, who served in Iraq with the Illinois Army National Guard, was embraced by Carlos Arredondo, whose son, Alexander, was killed in the war while serving in the Marine Corps. The scene took place on the steps of the State Capitol following a march by the Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Calling for Republican presidential John McCain to denounce the Iraq war and put veteran issues first, about 150 former military members marched from the State Capitol to the Xcel Center this morning.
"Right now we feel there's a veterans' crisis and it's only growing as veterans return home," said Garett Reppenhagen, a representative of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Members of that group split into platoons of marchers -- those who had volunteered to be arrested and those who didn't -- and pledged nonviolence. About 30 police on bicycles accompanied the marchers without incident.
Several marchers in the first platoon wore their full military uniforms, including a Marine sergeant in his dress blues.
Chanting in military cadence, the marchers followed a coffin on wheels to commemorate Alexander Arrendondo, a Marine who was killed in 2004 in Iraq. He was 20 years old.
Kris Goldsmith, a member of the organization's New York City chapter, read a list of demands when the group arrived near fencing that surrounds the Xcel Center. Among the many points was a call for improved inspections of veterans' hospitals, better care and treatment for veterans with mental health problems, and responsibility for rape and other sexual trauma among troops.
A few dozen members of Veterans for Peace, a group that marched on the same route Sunday, accompanied the Iraq veterans.
Kevin Giles • 651-298-1554