Meeting a fellow “Veterans for Peace” traveler

Once again I fed my addiction to promoting peace by standing about a hundred yards from the southwest gate of FirstEnergy Stadium for about three hours yesterday (Sunday, Nov. 27th), to greet hundreds of fans going to the New York Giants-Cleveland Browns football game.

As is often the case during such gigs, something extraordinary happened as I stood wearing my 50-year-old U.S. Army field jacket, complemented by my peace flag.

Among the hundreds of fans walking by was a man named Jim Smith, from Port Washington, NY, on Long Island. Pointing to the Veterans for Peace button on the right breast pocket of my field jacket, he said he also is a member of the organization and served in Vietnam as a reporter for the Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper. Jim said he was in town not only for the game but also to visit his son who is an air traffic controller in Oberlin.

I asked Jim when he was in Vietnam and he said he was there in the early ’70s. I said, “Aw, you missed out on the Tet Offensive.” He said he hears that comment a lot from other veterans who were in country during that historic attack.

Jim is the author of “Heroes to the End,” a compilation of his Stars and Stripes stories. He gave me his business card which mentions, along with authorship of his book, that he is board chair of United Veterans Beacon House, which provides housing for homeless veterans. Jim also is a veterans advocate and member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in New York.

Regarding football fans streaming to the stadium, it was rather disappointing that so many people, mostly men, were rather rude. It’s not that they said things that were rude. It’s just than when I greeted them cheerily and with an upbeat comment, such as “It’s a beautiful day for football,” they would ignore me. Same applied to many women, although not as much. Still, several people reached out to shake my hand, thank me for my service, give me fist bumps and a couple of men gave me the popular “guy semi-hug”. All this was appreciated but what was much more appreciated were bear hugs from a couple of sweet young things who loved my message. I told both women, “You made my day.”

As I was walking toward the stadium before the game, a middle-aged couple walked toward me. After they were about ten steps behind me, the man turned and shouted “God bless America!” I shouted back, “Peace on Earth!! He said nothing and kept walking.

Several minutes later a man on a bicycle with an American flag attached to the back fender pedaled up West Third Street away from the stadium. He did a double-take after seeing my peace flag circled around toward me and yelled, “It’s great to be in America!”

Once again I shouted, “Peace on Earth!”

After all, it is the season.