Veterans for Peace, veterans, friends, supporters and family all gathered at the Gates of Heaven at James Madison Park in Madison to honor the dead and rally for a peaceful tomorrow on May 27, Memorial Day, the peace rally is an annual event.
Finding peace and comfort in uncertain times was a theme that accompanied a week-long installation of the Memorial Mile along Atwood Avenue on the shores of Lake Monona. The Mile gives remembrance to the deaths of over 7.000 military members who have died in ongoing military actions around the world.
“The traditional Memorial Day programs have, we feel, a very militaristic flavor, and our program is really a peace event,” according to Veteran for Peace, David Giffey, who acted as emcee. The Veterans for Peace rally is, in part, focused on communicating the great costs of war.
The event began as the band, Old Cool, led by singer Sandy Nowak along with Dan Hildebrand and Arvid Berge sang to remember the military members and other victims of war and to hope for a better future.
The Class of 2019 students from area high schools were recognized for their winning essays on topics about peace and nonviolence. Veterans for Peace-Madison received 30 essays this year.
Ashley Cornwell, from Baraboo, read from her essay dealing with conflict resolution through diplomacy. We can do much more to communicate better and in working to understand how others feel and what they think.
Priest, poet and former Madison police chief David Couper addressed the peace rally. Couper spoke during the peace rally about his path to nonviolence and read his poetry, including a poem about what it means to be a patriot.
Our goal is to abolish war, said David Giffey, we can be advocates for peace and be patriotic. The cost in lives, the cost of displacement of human beings and the opportunity costs are all immense and avoidable.
Giffey read the names of Veterans for Peace who have passed away including Clarence Kailin, Joey Camarrano, Jim Ellsworth, Sidney Podell, Dr. James Allen, Jeff Goldstein, Charles Sweet, Dr. Eugene Farley, Joel Gaalswyk, John Oliger, and Ed Garvey. Since Memorial Day, we have also lost Bob Kimbrough, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and veteran of the Korean War.
Melissa Sargent, a state representative from the local Madison area; spoke on peace, government, the civil rights of citizens and immigrant communities.
Give a listen: Audio of Melissa Sargent’s May 27 speech, courtesy of WORT FM and Gil Halsted.
Sargent honored the dead while reflecting on the moral injustices of war. The effect of violence and war on the military members cascades down to spouses and family members, and the impact continues long after the immediate conflicts are ended.
Melissa Sargent: “This Memorial Day, it was my pleasure to speak at and to be a part of the Veterans for Peace rally. While we were honoring those who have sacrificed their lives for our country, we also recognized the moral injustices of war and that the cost of war encompasses more than the loss of those killed. With lost loved ones, post-traumatic stress disorder, civilians who are impacted and injuries that continue after wars are over, too many people have had their lives torn apart by war.
While we cannot bring back those whose lives have been lost, we can continue to strive for peace in the future. We must lift one another up, and take small steps towards peace each and every day. I know that when we each do better, we all do better. We are stronger together, and together we can build strong and peaceful communities.”
As the attendees filed out of the synagogue, musician Sean Michael Dargan played somber tunes on his bagpipe lending to the sense of seriousness of the loss of these human beings, and we were handed carnations.
The red flowers were then placed on and near the Lincoln Brigade monument.
The Lincoln Brigade were volunteers who fought the fascists in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, which initially the US government was not opposed to. At least until, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini gave fascism a bad name.
More info on the Lincoln Brigade and the Spanish Civil War
Photographs taken by Paul McMahon, Heartland Images. Thanks to Paul. Thank you to Norman Stockwell, publisher of the Progressive Magazine, for all of your technical expertise and hard work.
Veterans for Peace-Madison includes veterans from a variety of conflicts around the world. We meet every third Wednesday of the month, our meetings are open to the public. We invite you to attend.