Those who watched Boston’s Veterans Day parade in its entirety last Friday received more than ample payoff for their patience. Led by a baton-wielding majorette and the ragtag Leftist Marching Band (its ranks bolstered by members of the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band), the Boston chapter of Veterans for Peace brought up the rear with a rumble. Their call to end to the wars, reexamine the role and scope of the military, and pay adequate care to those returning from conflict zones met with mixed cheers, uneasy silence and the infrequent jeer as the VFP fleet wound from the Common to a rally at Faneuil Hall.
The Boston chapter of Veterans for Peace, which works nationwide to increase public awareness of the costs of war, demonstrate against foreign military intervention, end nuclear and arms proliferation and advocate for veterans, garnered considerable attention in October during the Boston Police crackdown on the Occupy Boston encampment. Members of the Boston VFP brigade were among the first arrested on October 11 — footage of the early morning crackdown made national headlines and lead many to criticize the rough treatment of the veterans, who had placed themselves between occupiers and BPD in a show of solidarity. VFP has also spoken out against the treatment of accused WikiLeaks leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning and VFP-member Scott Olsen, an Iraq veteran whose skull was fractured by a police tear gas canister at an Occupy Oakland protest.
“We’re about peace,” emphasized Ken, a VFP member and veteran who served in Korea and Vietnam. “We’re all about ending wars and promoting economic justice. We’re about trying to stop this insanity. The direct costs of the Iraq war right now is $1 trillion, and Afghanistan will be another $1-1.5 trillion.
Then there are medical costs on top of that: you have 70,000 vets coming home with physical injuries, plus roughly 20 percent of the 2.5 million people who have been over there have some flavor of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. It’s time we bring them home.”
In addition to veterans and pro-peace brass banders, families of soldiers killed and injured in Iraq and Afghanistan joined the VFP march. Joyce Lucey carried a picture of her son Jeffrey, who committed suicide in 2004 after returning from Iraq. He was twenty-three years old when he died. “Jeffrey had a long battle with PTSD, and tried to get treatment from the VA,” his sister Debbie recounts. “The services aren’t adequate, and we’re losing soldiers left and right [to suicide], but you don’t hear almost anything about it. The emotional wounds are just as deadly, which Jeff was proof of with so many others. He came back destroyed.” As part of Military Families Speak Out, Joyce and Debbie have told Jeffrey’s story across the country to call for an end to “wars of choice” and for adequate support for returning troops.
The VFP flock, which gradually grew to include allies like Boston’s Raging Grannies and Code Pink, wove raucously around the Common and past City Hall to amass at Faneuil. After a few post-march songs from the band, Boston VFP coordinator Pat Scanlon took the podium to call for a return to November 11th’s historical armistice roots. “We want to take back this day as Armistice Day, a day for peace to end all wars,” said Scanlon. “Who knows? Maybe next year we won’t have to be here.” Maybe next year.
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