By Andy Mitchell
A crowd of dozens gathered at the east side of the Pentacrest on the morning of Nov. 11, bearing signs calling for peace reading “Health Care not Warfare,” “Make America Think Again,” and “It Won’t Be War That Ends All Wars,” among others.
The Veterans for Peace Iowa City chapter held its Armistice Day observance at 10:45 a.m., the only Armistice Day observance in the state of Iowa.
At 11 a.m., members rang bells in remembrance. The event featured words of peace from organization members, an appearance from Iowa City Mayor Pro Tem Kingsley Botchway, a reading of Wilfred Owens’ Dulce et Decorum Est by chapter poet Joe Michaud, and concluded in song.
After the observance, the group gathered in the United Congregational Church, 30N. Clinton St., to discuss and hold an open mic, where they heard a number of perspectives from veterans to conscientious objectors.
Ed Flaherty, one of the most active members of Iowa City’s chapter, said it was a time for remembrance.
Flaherty remembered how he felt about the Vietnam War in the late-1960s and how he came to be a veteran for peace. He said the war was not a mistake and instead it was based on lies and a total travesty.
“I went into the Army in ‘66; I had no belief that the Vietnam War was good,” Flaherty said. “I just thought that if I had to go, I had to go, but it wasn’t because I believed in the war. To call it a defense of America is just offensive to me so I became a veteran for peace in 1971.”
Flaherty said that when President Nixon left office and the Vietnam War was over, he thought that the country had learned from the “episode of insanity.” This comfort turned empty by the time the United States invaded Iraq and Afghanistan.
John Jadayev served in Vietnam in 1968 and has been a part of Veterans for Peace since 2010. He talked about his gravitation toward Veterans for Peace and the coinciding philosophy.
He said that Vietnam made him rethink how he measured his life. He thought about the men he served with who were killed in action at 19 and 25.
“I’m 76, I’ve lived four more lifetimes than Danny,” Jadayev said. “I ask myself, Am I doing justice to those lives?”
Jadayev also said there was a difference between how America processes war today versus Vietnam. He compared the protests of yesterday to an ignorance of today.
“Many people don’t even know there’s a war going on,” Jadayev said.
Sonia Kendrick, now a farmer for her nonprofit organization Feed Iowa First, reflected on what she learned from serving in Afghanistan in 2004. She recalled when she joined the Army, thinking that it was to fight a war against terrorism.
“It’s the younger and poor they go for,” Kendrick said about the Army. “I joined because I was homeless at 17, and I wanted to go to college.”
Kendrick said she stays positive by growing food and giving to those who need it.
“I want people to be empowered to vote with their dollar and to make peace in their lives, not just existentially,” Kendrick said.