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91-Year-Old Vet Marches from Chicago to Springfield to Promote Change in the Capital City

The group traveled over 200 miles by foot, from Chicago to Springfield, starting May 15. (WRSP)

Dozens of people spent their Memorial Day marching hundreds of miles to the Capitol City, including a 91-year-old World War II veteran.

They rallied for change, with a message about the "wealthy" for lawmakers.

"Stop freeloading on us, and help us, so that we are not so vulnerable,” veteran Dr. Alfred Klinger said.

The group traveled over 200 miles by foot, from Chicago to Springfield, starting May 15. Many were suffering from blisters and sore muscles throughout the trek.

“When it rained we put on our rain gear,” Klinger said. “We watched each other’s back; we shared our lives; we shared our emotions; we shared our ideas."

And they also shared a common goal, a budget they call People and Planet First.

It would raise about $23.5 billion by closing corporate tax loopholes, passing a transaction tax on trading in Illinois money markets, and raising the income tax rate on the wealthy.

Activists said the money is proposed to go toward universal health care, pre-K through 12 education, free tuition at public universities, transitioning to green energy, repairing infrastructure and honoring the state’s pension commitments to public workers.

“You know it’s emotionally overwhelming to put our hearts and souls into something,” said Samantha Nichols, a leader in the organization Fair Economy, who planned the march. “I think that’s what communities can be, that’s what our state government should be fostering and that's why we're marching."

But this Memorial Day reminds Alfred of dark times.

“Living on the edge between life and death."

He said strength for this march came from one of his fallen combat comrades named Charlie, who died on the battlefield, just hours after the two had played card games.

“He's still here,” Klinger said. “I think of him every day."

Another marcher is remembering her loved one, carrying a near twenty-pound wooden cross the entire 200 miles. Erica Nanton's cousin was shot and killed just last year in Chicago.

“He would be proud,” Nantons’s said. “He would, absolutely. He always told me that he was proud of me and supported me. I had so many amazing people I met along the way, that was the best part and I feel like they got to meet him too."

She said she hopes this will show lawmakers, change needs to happen to combat violence and help low-income communities, and that progress is possible.

Klinger said he is incredibly proud to march alongside each of his new friends.

“This is one of the pinnacles of my life,” he said. “And what a journey it has been."

Tuesday, hundreds of other marchers from across the state will meet at the Old State Capitol; from there, they'll march the last leg to the statehouse together.

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