By Yidan Sun
BU News Service
BOSTON — Veterans for Peace paraded on Sunday from the corner of Beacon Street with Charles Street toward Faneuil Hall, waving white flags that signaled peace, along with the American flag. The famous saying from Maj. Gen. Smedley D. Butler: “War is a racket. A few profit — the many pay,” was written in the back of the sweatshirt of one of the veterans.
Nov.11 was the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. It marks the end of World War I and was declared a U.S. federal holiday in 1938. Now known as Veterans Day, it was renamed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954.
“It is a holiday for peace, not war,” said Doug Stuart, a veteran of the Vietnam War and a member of the executive committee of the Smedley D. Butler Brigade, which sponsors the parade. “Legislation calls on people to pause and reflect on the horror of war and rededicate our nation to the cause of world peace.”
The Smedley D. Butler Brigade was named after the general who, at the time of his death, was the most decorated Marine in U.S. history and an outspoken critic of war. The Brigade is the Boston chapter of Veterans for Peace, a global organization made up of veterans who work to promote alternatives to war. About 30 veterans were at the parade, ages 35 to 91.
Veterans explain their stance for peace
Stuart was drafted to the Vietnam War at the age of 23, in 1968, the peak of the war when the U.S. had the most troops deployed in Vietnam.
“I was opposed to the war and I was forced to go,” Stuart said.
From 1940 to 1973, men were drafted to fill vacancies in the United States Armed Forces that could not be filled through voluntary means. Though the draft came to an end, wars and conflicts never did. As of July 27, 2018, there had been 2,372 U.S. military deaths in the war in Afghanistan since 2001, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Stuart said he felt sorry for American citizens fighting in Afghanistan.
“You cannot go and fight for three to five years and then come home and go shopping at Walmart and think there is not something wrong with the world,” Stuart said. “We are destroying their lives.”
Different from Stuart, Robert Morris volunteered as a doctor in the Vietnam War because he did not want to be drafted automatically into the army. As a Catholic, he became conflicted with the war.
“We need the money here in order to educate, to give people health care, to get the poor people off the streets,” said Morris, a graduate of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The 2019 Budget of the U.S. Govenrment requested $686 billion for the Department of Defense, an $80 billion or 13 percent increase from the 2017 enacted level. This includes $89 billion for overseas military funds.
Besides government spending on overseas military bases, most veterans are also against local companies in Massachusetts that produce manufacturing tools for war.
Tommy Boucher, who served as a Marine from 2001 to 2006 in Iraq and is now a cancer researcher, noted that scientists and engineers involved in military projects should reflect on how their work is being used.
“Think about what their creations are going to do, where they’re going to be used and not to fool themselves into thinking that these are just used to protect us,” Boucher said.
When the parade reached Faneuil Hall, veterans made speeches and some people stopped to listen.
Dan O’Brien, a passer-by from Burlington, Mass., whose grandfather fought in World War II and turned 100 years old this year, said the parade made him think about the wars and conflicts in the past and present around the world.
“Why are we still out there?” O’Brien asked. “Can something else be done besides that?”
Abigael Vogt, a New Zealand national whose step-grandfather served in the Solomon Islands in World War II, stood in front of Faneuil Hall and listened to the speech carefully. From her perspective, the current conflicts are about power and control of resources.
“Lots of people still make a lot of money out of war and that’s a key driver for why there’s still so much conflict in the world,” Vogt said.
Thomas Curry, a 10-year-old boy from Chicago, expressed his concern about the wars and conflicts going on.
“I think we should all have a cease-fire and put down all our guns and just call it a day,” Thomas said. He set Hunger Games as an example, referring to the Hollywood trilogy that started with the 2012 film “The Hunger Games,” about citizens that have to fight to the death in a competition.
“I just want everyone to stop fighting because it kind of makes me feel scared.”