|September 2006 - January 2007|
|The last few months have been busy for the chapter. We have been co-hosting a series of movies with the Center of Contemporary Arts (CCA) since March 2006, the first being “Why We Fight”. We had a series of panel discussions and receptions after the initial films. The last two films we screened were “The War Tapes” and “Iraq For Sale”. Rather than panel discussions we had “community dialogues” and there were interesting perspectives from the audience as well as wonderful dialogue. We intend to continue these screenings as long as CCA affords us the opportunity. We hosted the screening of “The Ground Truth” on the weekend that it opened nation-wide as well. Jimmy Massey was on-hand to offer his perspective and answer questions about his service and activism since leaving the Marine Corps.
VFP-members Joan Duffy (Vietnam War), Tim Origer (Vietnam War, and Daniel Craig, DOM (Gulf War) participated in an event titled, “Core Witness Monologues” in late June. Each member shared their life experiences leading up to their participation in their respective wars and the subsequent experiences since the war. They had the privilege of sharing the stage with John Densmore, former drummer of The Doors, who accompanied the musicians with the monologues. It was a powerful and painful look at the ramifications of military service.
We provided scholarships for the Fall ’06 and Spring ’07 semesters to members of the Dine (Navajo) Nation. Each applicant wrote an essay on what peace meant to them and/or how they contributed to peace with-in their individual communities as well as how they intended on contributing to peace in the future. We chose winners based upon their essays and degree of need. We met with awardees for each case for an awards ceremony on the campus of The University of New Mexico. We awarded $1000 to each student along with a one-year membership in Veterans For Peace.
VFP chapter members co-sponsored “Hiroshima Day” on Sunday, 6 August with Pax Christi New Mexico and the Dragonfly Sanctuary to commemorate the dropping of the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. We set up a booth and, again, had many great conversations with people attending the event. Speakers included Father John Dear; atomic veteran Lincoln Grahlfs; Gulf War Veteran Daniel Craig, a member of the local chapter; as well as Kathy Kelly, the three-time Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Kathy spoke at El Museo Cultural the evening before about her experience as a peace activist and the work people can do to promote peace. VFP also co-sponsored this event with Pax Christi New Mexico.
Members of the chapter attended the 10-annual Gathering For Mother Earth hosted by TEWA Women United on the weekend of 23-24 September. We had a booth set up during the course of the weekend and had some good discussions with people attending the Gathering. One member ran in the 11-mile ceremonial relay from Tsankawi (the site of ruins of Anasazi ancestors of the Pueblo Nation) down to the Pojoaque Pow Wow Grounds. The race signified the dedication to peace of all people at the Gathering and the gathering itself is focused on the ultimate closure of Los Alamos National Laboratories which continues to poison the lives of Pueblo members in the vicinity who live below the mesas on which the labs exist. The same weekend other members of the chapter attended the performances of the play “A Nation Deceived” by author, playwright, and VFP-member Craig Barnes. The community was treated to the presence of Ed Asner in the play.
A few chapter members participated in an over-night “Homeless Sleepout” on Friday, 10 November sponsored by St. Elizabeth’s Homeless Shelter to help bring awareness of the plight of homeless people in Santa Fe. Individuals camped out one night in freezing cold weather without adequate shelter as the few thousand homeless adults and adolescents do in the Santa Fe area on a nightly basis. Maurice Martin, a VFP-member and worker at “St. E’s.” was instrumental in bringing VFP to participate.
The following day, 11 November, VETERAN’S Day, our chapter marched in the annual Veteran’s Day Parade. The work of VFP-member Robert Sinn with Mayor David Coss’ office resulted in our marching for the first time in the history of the annual parade! Members walked the route and handed out printed cards with a written explanation of the original meaning of Veteran’s Day as a “Day of Peace”. We were well received by the crowd. The parade ended at the new Veteran’s Memorial with a series of speeches by various dignitaries and music. Simultaneously, the chapter set up our “Memorial Banners” on the plaza. The memorial is a series of 3’ x 6’ banners with 39 or 52 DoD photos and information of each Coalition Servicemember who has died in the Iraq Invasion and subsequent Occupation. Information included is branch of service, rank, age, home of record, unit, and circumstances of death. Chapter President Ken Mayers was “thrust” into the presence of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson by an astute chapter member and invited the governor to go down to the plaza to view the memorial. The governor, to our surprise, did so and after a discussion with chapter-member Tim Origer agreed to post the memorial within the Rotunda of the State Capitol, and went as far as to acquiesce that it happening during the legislative session! The Veterans For Peace contingent was the most visible veteran’s organization that day.
Sadly, Joan Duffy died of cancer on Friday, 17 November at her home. She was buried on Tuesday, 21 November at the National Cemetery in Santa Fe. Joan served in the U.S. Air Force as a nurse at Cam Rahn Bay in 1968-1969 and continued to serve her country and community as an advocate for peace. She was a member of the “Full Disclosure” team which went into local schools to talk to students about the realities of military service that recruiters cannot and will not discuss with prospective recruits. One of her last efforts was returning to Vietnam as a delegate to the first International Conference on Agent Orange in Hanoi. Joan worked tirelessly to bring attention to the suffering caused by Agent Orange, both local, nationally, and internationally. We miss her greatly here in Santa Fe.
A few members traveled in late November to Ft. Benning, Georgia for the annual “School of the Americas” (now camouflaged as “WHISC”) protest, formally known as School of the Americas Watch (SOAW). They participated in a march and memorial along with many thousands of other activists and witnesses to close the “school of torture”.
VFP members set up an information table at the reading and book signing on Friday, 1 December 2006 for the book “Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace” edited by Maxine Hong Kingston which includes essays by member of Veterans For Peace.
We co-sponsored a talk on Saturday, 13 January by noted Ph.D. of Political Scientist, Dr. Michael Parenti, on the topic of “Wars, Lies, and Empires”, again, at El Museo Cultural. Our chapters mission is: Heal the wounds of previous wars, minimize the suffering of existing wars, and reduce the likelihood of future wars. We anticipate many more opportunities to carry our message in our community and surrounding areas in our quest to make peace the standard by which we exist. “Wage Peace!”