By Charles Peckman
A sporadic wind began as Ross Porch of Veterans for Peace Chapter 161 raised a bugle to his mouth. The date, Nov. 11 — the song, “Taps.” A group of veterans, veterans’ wives, and citizens of Iowa City stood in somber remembrance on the Pentacrest, tears accumulating with every note of Porch’s bugle.
As members of the group went up to the microphone, personal anecdotes about war were shared, and solidarity was shown with the No Dakota Access Pipeline movement. Although the bloodshed the veterans have witnessed is in the past, the memories, unfortunately, are still as vivid the day it happened.
Robert Frazier, the president of Veterans for Peace Chapter 169 of Cedar Rapids, talked about his objections to the pipeline and why the movement is of interest to members of Veterans for Peace.
The pipeline has been a contentious issue recently, with several Native American groups claiming the North Dakota to Illinois crude oil pipeline could damage sacred land and important waterways.
“Government corruption, corporate greed, the list goes on. I mean really there’s a lot of reasons to oppose this pipeline project,” Frazier said.
Frazier went on to talk about the “spectacular display of apathy” he witnessed during the 2016 presidential election and its bearing on the division he sees in the American people.
Frazier said this division leads to “more civil unrest compounded on the issues that were never resolved and remain on the table. Meanwhile, pipe is still getting laid.”
Jeffrey Cox, a University of Iowa professor of history, read a poem by World War I poet Wilfred Owen. The poem, “Dulce et Decorum Est,” talks about the horrors that soldiers witnessed during the First World War.
The title of the poem translates as “it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.” Owen himself was killed in action during World War I, a week before the Armistice occurred.
With a tremble in his voice, Cox read a particularly poignant line of the poem. “In all my dreams before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning,” he said.
The poem evoked much emotion from the audience, because it shows the pain soldiers feel not only during battle but after as well. Although Owen was killed during war, his poetry will live on for generations as an encapsulation of that pain.
Jessica Reznicek, an Iowan and activist, spoke about her experiences with antiwar and anti-big oil campaigns. “I have personally been working on antiwar and anti-big oil campaigns for six years now,” she said.
Reznicek said this week is a large week to talk about and understand how big oil connects to war. She described her international work and how once she returned to the United States, her focus shifted from antiwar to anti-big oil.
“I knew I had to join the movement,” she said.
The final speaker, Ed Flaherty of Veterans for Peace Chapter 161, said “I declare this Armistice Day for Iowa City a day we commit to peace.”
Flaherty noted that he was speaking with a heavy heart, because he was speaking on behalf of his fallen brothers and sisters.
Flaherty said Nov. 11 should be “a day to commemorate and work toward peace.”
The event finished in a simple manner — with an acoustic rendition of the song “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream.”
Across the Pentacrest, the voices of those present singing this exclamation for peace was nothing short of breathtaking.
“Last night I had the strangest dream I ever dreamed before. I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war,” the group sang.