After attending the Veterans For Peace National Convention recently I have been reflecting on what the organization means, and where my place in it is.
I first heard of Veterans For Peace from Joshua Shurley. At the time I knew some about his background and his military service, and his connection with this organization really intrigued me. Over my life I have known many veterans. My brother, father, both grandfathers, every uncle, and several of my cousins are veterans. And since I can remember I have been drawn to peace movements. The idea that there was an organization made up of veterans who are working to end war was surprising, though it made perfect sense to me. Veterans know first hand the horrors of war. Theirs is a voice that can speak to the need to end them.
Here in front of me was a real live individual human who was moved by his own experience to work for peace. Here was proof that there were others. After seeing the impact that Veterans For Peace had on Joshua, I decided to help him build his local chapter through outreach. As often happens when working with non-profits and activist organizations, I quickly moved from hoping to give a bit of advice to a head first commitment. Next thing I knew I was on my way to the annual national convention as an associate member.
I have no service record, so I was nervous about how I would be received. As much empathy as I may have, I cannot know the lived experience of military service. As an associate (non veteran) member I wanted to be conscious of this. Over the four days I spent meeting members from across the country and the world, I found so much openness and welcome. The sense of common purpose there was overwhelming, and the camaraderie was like nothing I have experienced before. The veterans and other associate members extended to me that sense of welcome and home that bonds them together.
“this organization provides a sense of community”
Beyond the practical functions of an organization working toward the ambitious goal of abolishing war, this organization provides a sense of community. Yes, we are working to end war, but we are also working to support those whose lives have been impacted by it and to seek alternatives to war. We come together to share the friendship and understanding of those who have a common vision.
Our society values supporting veterans and soldiers, but too often (often unwittingly) it also maintains the machine that produces them. Where is the place for the soldier who has seen the machine–the military industrial complex–for what it is? Where is the place for the civilian who loves the humans in the uniforms, but would wish to see their uniform abolished? It is here. Their place is here. Your place is here.
Please join us, Veterans For Peace, and find your local chapter.