National Veterans for Peace convention to discern ways to work for peace
About 300 veterans and supporters from the U.S., United Kingdom, Vietnam, Mexico and Okinawa will hold their 34th Annual National Veterans for Peace Convention Thursday to Sunday, Aug. 15 to 18, at the Doubletree Hotel in Spokane. The 2019 theme is "Sacred Land, Sacred Lives – Peace Knows No Borders."
Hollis Higgins, secretary of the 22-member local chapter, said they decided to host the event to "leverage the peace voice in Spokane." He hopes a peace convention can counterbalance war-promoting events.
Chapters in Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and Portland helped the Spokane's chapter plan the event.
Veterans for Peace's 8,000 members in more than 140 chapters in the United States and 40 more chapters worldwide believe peace—peaceful ways—is the way to bring peace in the world.
Veterans For Peace (VFP) was founded in 1985 by five U.S. veterans in response to the nuclear arms race and U.S. military interventions in Central America. That year, chapter #4 was organized in Colville. In 1989, Rusty Nelson, former co-director of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS) established Spokane's chapter #35. It includes vets from Kettle Falls, Coeur d'Alene, Pasco, Colorado and Oregon, aged from 46 to 94.
Hollis, who joined in 2010, said he was doubtful about the potential for such a group to be effective. Rusty said cynicism was appropriate, but it was important to move beyond cynicism to avoid the danger of giving up.
Nationally, the VFP has a permanent Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) seat at the United Nations and was the first veterans' organization in the International Peace Bureau based in Geneva, .
Veterans For Peace has three emphases in its goal to abolish war: 1) educate people on the full, unsustainable cost of war; 2) resist militarism through efforts to end current wars and change U.S. foreign policy to diplomacy, and 3) heal wounds of war and build a just and peaceful society.
The convention begins at noon, Thursday, with a forum and reception, followed by a Poetry Soiree. Each day begins with yoga/meditation, a 12-step group and Tai Chi.
The Friday opening plenary includes greetings from local peace activists, indigenous leaders and dignitaries. Morning and afternoon workshops will inform and motivate delegates on antiwar issues.
Three plenaries Friday feature speakers on U.S. military interventions around the globe, the history of anti-war organizing in the military (GI resistance), and the importance of seeing all lands and lives as sacred, Hollis said.
A community event at 7 p.m., Friday will feature local musicians and guest speakers.
From 10 p.m. to midnight, there will be movies and conversations.
After Saturday business, there will be a banquet, a keynote address, awards and dancing.
After a Sunday "open mic" session from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., the closing plenary will feature Spokane's Spectrum Singers.
Several non-violent actions are planned during the event.
Hollis invited members of the community to join Veterans For Peace in its work for peace and justice globally, removing the barriers between countries, cultures and the people of the world.
Hollis, who grew up in Porterville, Calif., was drafted in 1968 after graduating in English from Fresno State College. The culture shock of seeing the extreme poverty of people living in shacks made of crushed cans, timbers and plastic roofs in a Korean city with a golden domed cathedral overwhelmed and disabled him, so he was honorably discharged early.
He worked 21 years with the County Parks and Recreation in Fresno, where he helped found the Fresno Center for Non-Violence. In Spokane, after 12 years with the postal service, he retired in 2016.
He has helped the Spokane chapter prepare two Memorial Day editions. One published in 2015 is Vet Lit: How We Remember War and a 2017 anthology is titled, Vet Lit 2: So It Goes. These publications share veterans' voices that are not often heard.
VFP, which meets at 6:45 p.m., second Wednesdays at 25 W. Main, organizes for peace, carries its banner in parades and does displays at events to raise awareness and offer resources to educate people. They often join PJALS events.
In Hollis' words, VFP exposes the "travesty of U.S. empire building around the world" to expand the influence of corporations.
"We also expose effects of militarism on civil society, including environmental destruction, glorifying war to youth, pollution from military deployments, bases and installations globally, and assaulting indigenous populations and other cultures," Hollis said.
In August 2018, VFP urged the Spokane City Council to declare the city a nuclear free zone to commemorate the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Veterans For Peace around the world—in Ireland, Russia, Japan and countries listed earlier—includes military veterans, family members and allies seeking to build a culture of peace, expose the costs of war, heal war wounds, support returning veterans, counter military recruiting in schools, counsel and mentor veterans affected by PTSD, seek justice for veterans and war victims, and works to end all war forever.
Some VFP national projects include promoting reconciliation of North and South Korea; assisting non-citizen veterans who are deported after serving in the U.S. military; defending religious freedom, equality and individual rights; urging truth in recruiting young people; and confronting racism and discrimination that dehumanize people to justify violence.
For information, call 209-3585, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit veteransforpeace.org.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2019