The Grayslake community is planning a big thank-you for veterans.
On Jan. 8, the Grayslake Youth Center/The Oasis will be the gathering place for free "Welcome Home" event featuring food, live entertainment and other resources for those who served.
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A variety of civic and business organizations will be represented in an afternoon of fellowship and patriotism.
Thousands of servicemen and women are expected to return home by the end of the year after the recent announcement by President Obama of the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Youth center founder Joyce Campbell was watching the news that night.
"I stared to wonder how many came home without a real welcome home," she said. "That was the beginning."
Campbell said she listed every group in town she could think of and sent an email invitation to a planning session.
"Lots of people came. Those who didn't come, wrote back and said, `We're in,'" she added.
Scheduled attendees include the Grayslake VFW and American Legion posts; Illinois Patriot Guard Riders; Grayslake fire and police departments; Grayslake Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry; Exchange and Lions clubs; College of Lake County; Grayslake park district, historical society and library; Girl and Boy scouts, village officials, MPower Now, Rising Sun Lodge and Grayslake High School District 127.
"Everybody's enthusiastic about it," said Grayslake Police Chief Matt McCutcheon, who is helping to spread the word.
With unemployment among veterans 2 percent higher than the national average, it's important to make networking opportunities for employment and education available, according to McCutcheon.
"There's going to be some nice resources there for these folks, to help them translate their military experience into marketable skills employers here will be interested in," he said.
Information also will be available on Veteran's Administration benefits and other services.
The event is open to all military veterans from all branches, active or retired and their families as well as the public. It is from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Youth Center, 151 Hawley St.
McCutcheon said it is uncertain how many veterans are in the area so the immediate goal is to spread the word.
Visit https:www.facebook.com/GrayslakeSalutes or call Campbell at (847) 989-2233.