War Vets to Return Medals in Protest at NATO Summit in Chicago

Dozens of members of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) plant to ceremoniously hand back their war medals on Sunday in Chicago on the first day of the 2012 NATO Summit.

The protesters are calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan and seeking to "begin a process of justice and reconciliation with the people of Afghanistan, other affected nations, fellow service members, veterans, and the American people." The soldiers will gather at 10 a.m. Sunday and being the protest with speeches and music. At 3 p.m., a group of around 30-50 servicemen and women are scheduled to hand back their decorations to NATO.

"We, Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, from around the country have united with CANG8 Coalition against NATO/G8 war and poverty agenda to converge in Chicago on May 20th for a unity march to the NATO summit and ceremoniously return our service medals to NATO generals," a statement on the IVAW website read.

"We were awarded these medals for serving in the Global War on Terror, a war based on lies and failed policies," the statement added.

IVAW has dozens of chapters across the United States and abroad and Sunday's march is co-sponsored by various organizations, including Military Families Speak Out, Peace Action, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and the Civilian Soldier Alliance.

The veterans hope to hand their decorations back to a NATO representative, but it is unclear if NATO will be providing an organizational representative to collect the service medals. If the group is unable to physically hand the metals back to NATO, they will either pin them to an American flag or pitch them over the security fence at the summit.

Members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War have also indicated that they will join in Sunday's protest.

The NATO Summit will be held May 20-21 in Chicago but nonviolent protests by members of the IVAW have already ensued – drawing small-to-moderate sized crowds, according to ABC News.

"We come to this city in non-violence to stand with our brothers and sisters around the world and say that we have had enough. We are done. These wars need to end yesterday," Afghanistan war veteran Graham Clumpner told National Public Radio in a Thursday interview.

"It's like one step to healing. Acknowledging what is wrong is one step and that's all we're asking from NATO is to acknowledge that there was a mistake," another veteran, Aaron Hughes, added.

The diplomatic forum, where missile defense, defense modernization, and transitioning Afghanistan will be the major topics of debate, is also facing calls from the United Nations and activists around the world to ensure that women's rights and the protection of women in Afghanistan are a priority issue at the summit.

"Now is the time to deal with the longer-term security and protection needs of Afghan women who have long borne the brunt of the war in Afghanistan," special representative for the U.N. secretary general in Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, said in a joint statement.

"Women's specific protection needs should be central to plans being made as the Afghan national army and police prepare to take an increasing lead in security operations."