My Journey to Peace

My journey to Peace started when I was 13 years old. My older brother was in Vietnam in the Marine Corps, when my best friend’s older brother came home in a casket from there. The impact on my friend’s family was misery like I could have never imagined.

I went to the funeral in the big white church on the town common in our idyllic New England town, but I didn’t have the courage to go inside. The doors were open and the despair that poured from those doors was too much for me to bear. So I stood outside next to the big tree and cried alone. For many years I was ashamed that I didn’t have the fortitude to go inside and pay my respects. I think this experience did more to turn me away from religion than any other event in my life. I couldn’t understand why people gathered in that church to share such terrible misery. Nothing could be gained, so how was it possible that they could find solace?

My older brother did come home after his second tour in Vietnam, and a good thing too. Because if he had been killed I think it would have destroyed me.

By the time it was my turn to go to war I had already convinced myself that political idealism was the only justification for war, and so I volunteered to fight the Communists. But when in the military I found myself surrounded by other volunteers. Christians, that were there as students of the prince of peace. I found it shocking that a Christian was volunteering to kill people, and I even mocked them at times.

But what I didn’t understand was that we were all wrong about war.

I fixed the weapons systems on planes that were being launched 24 hours a day 7 days a week. One day two aircrews came back from a mission elated that our bombing computer was so wonderfully accurate. One plane had a 500 lb. bomb left after their mission and they had to get rid of it before they could return to base, so they used our bombing computer to drop it on a man on a bicycle. His wingman gleefully stated that the bomb had hit the man in the back, and shook our hands in gratitude. There we stood the students of the prince of peace, and political ideologues, shoulder to shoulder, killing innocent people.

Not much later we were pulled into an intelligence briefing where the man from DC told us that we were losing the war. He figured that we already knew that, but asked us to keep the war machine going so that the North Vietnamese would be forced to the peace table, and America could exit the war with good face.

We walked back to work, the students of the prince of peace, and political ideologues, shoulder to shoulder, so we could kill more innocent people.

Later still we had an alert pad in Taiwan where our planes were loaded with nuclear weapons. Richard Nixon, our President at the time, was under political siege and seemed visibly unstable to me on TV. The Israelis and Egyptians were at war and Nixon called a DEFCOM 3, putting the military one step from war. We had already killed 3 million mostly innocent civilians in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. If Nixon had commanded a strike I am convinced that we would have killed another 10 Million Chinese. And there we would have stood the students of the prince of peace, and political ideologues, shoulder to shoulder, mass murderers.

It took me a long time to rid myself of my ideology, but the final straw was broken when we invaded Iraq. I was shocked that we would do this again and I found Veterans For Peace. We placed crosses on the beach first by the hundreds and later by the thousands, one for every US military person killed. Then we read their names, often with family members and friends listening. Their tears and expressions gave me the same feelings of despair and misery that poured from that church in New England long ago. Nothing had changed.

Also standing there listening to us reading the names of the fallen were the young students of the prince of peace, and political ideologues, with their short military haircuts. Shoulder to shoulder and at the ready. Just like us, at the ready to kill innocent people.

This is why I work for Peace.

By Dave Patterson, San Diego Veterans For Peace

The Price of Freedom?

Something came to me as I walked past the church of epiphany in Washington D.C. I had just viewed numerous monuments designed to memorialize our legions of war wounded, war dead and those that served. At the American History museum our war making past and present is codified as “The Price of Freedom”. A quarter of one whole floor is dedicated to making the case that all American wars, past and present, have been a necessity to preserve this great nation of ours.

There are a lot of monuments in D.C. to war. There are war memorials specific to the military branches. There are statues of tired soldiers, flaming swords and waves and dolphins and fountains and granite obelisks and walls with tens of thousands of names of U.S. military killed. There are salutes to those that served, and those that were injured and those that died, and those that loaded the bombs or dropped them, and those that traipsed through the snow or jungle being killed and maimed while killing people that were defending their homeland against us. We were right and they were wrong, the price of freedom. These memorials are flooded with men and women, older mostly, proudly wearing their veteran baseball caps. Never mind the millions of people whose lives we disrupted.


What I saw again and again at each memorial was testimony to failed leadership. Monumental failures of leadership and the resulting millions dead or wounded made me think that if we razed all the memorials and started again with a clean slate we might have a chance of breaking this propensity for war. What I saw was war memorials that have morphed from places that showed respect for the dead, to places were we can be proud of the destruction we heap on others, the price of freedom. No mention of the people that have felt the blade of our terrible swift American sword.

My epiphany is that it’s time to junk all the war memorials across this great land. There can be no argument that if our leadership had been better we could have avoided most if not all the dead and wounded, the immeasurable expense, and suffering we left behind and the violence brought home to our families. Why would we want so many memorials to manifest failure? All we really need is the reflecting pool, where we can consider the consequences of our actions and a path forward where good leadership steers us clear of war, rather than toward it.

My thoughts were later reinforced with the writings of 2 of our wise men on display. At the Dupont Circle, a quote from Walt Whitman about the suffering he had witnessed on both sides of the Civil War:

“Thus in silence in dreams’ projections,
returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals;
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night – some are so young;
Some suffer so much – I recall the experience sweet and sad…”

At the George Washington Masonic temple our first President is quoted as saying “Let Prejudices and local interests yield to reason. Let us look to our national character and to things beyond the present period”.

Another thought came to me at the church of Epiphany. Where have all the great men gone?


What we can learn from the Mormons

Mitt Romney, the last of 2 Mormon candidates running for President, spent a couple of his early years as a missionary overseas. While on that mission he was proselytizing and living in a religious environment, during the time that his brain was going through a major change. For we homo-sapiens critical development of the brain is occurring from 18 to 22 years of age, where 30% of the neural connections are made. That sounds like a good environment to send a young person into while they develop their adult brains.


During those critical 18~22 years of age, Mormon kids enjoy safe and tranquil years thinking about peace and religion, while many of us are sending our sons and daughters into war zones to be immersed in fear and hostility. In the war zone our kid’s brains are washed in fear and anger peptides for prolonged periods of time, and as the body rejuvenates the new cells scream for more of the same, fear and violence peptides. Thus, such and environment creates a physical addiction to aggression and may very well permanently damage the neural connections. When our kids come home from the war zones, they bring their war zone brains with, and can disrupt our society with violent behavior and an inability to function normally.

We’ve got to wonder, why do we do this to our children and society? We have to think that the Mormons are smarter than we because they apparently have a higher regard for the well being of their offspring and our society as a whole. This is why I find this part of the Mormon lifestyle superior to non-Mormons. Their kids come home peaceful and well developed, and ours come home with brain damage of varying degree.

I abhor the idea of missionaries invading other cultures, but I think we need to learn the care of our offspring better from what the Mormons do. But do we need to become Mormons, or send our children on Missions to give our youth the same opportunity to develop outside fear and violence? We do not.

What we do need to do is first stand up for our children, when the money hungry in our nation start wars that aren’t necessary. This requires an amount of intellectual honesty, to stand back from the flag-waving fray and ask serious questions as to the validity of the government’s claim that any given war is necessary. The second requirement would be, if we find the war unnecessary, to stand up and declare the government liars and crooks, and to take a public and visible position against that war. The third requirement would be to make sure that our kids are not involved in wars that don’t need to happen.

How many of our children veterans must come home with brain damage of some kind before we begin to do what the Mormons do, and change the way we care for them?