As has been my custom for the past several years, I walked in the Lakewood Fourth of July Parade in my U.S. Army dress uniform and carried my peace flag. Also, I realized a day or so before the parade that the Cleveland Indians would be playing a home game that evening against the San Diego Padres, so the thought came to mind to promote peace at both venues.
During the morning Lakewood parade I was impressed with the positive reception, judging by the applause along the Lake Avenue route, although it didn’t quite measure up to the warm receptions at the Shaker Heights Memorial Day parade nor Parade the Circle. Still, it was gratifying and may indicate a growing disaffection with our never-ending, futile wars in the Middle East.
The parade ended at Lakewood Park. As I stepped out of the parade, an Army soldier-spectator dressed in camouflage fatigues and wearing a red beret took at least three photos of me, although I pretended not to notice. He never spoke, so I assumed he was not especially sympathetic to my message. I stood next to him as other parade participants walked by and noticed a patch on the upper left arm of his uniform indicated he is a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, which is headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I thought about mentioning to him that I, too, had been stationed at Fort Bragg, assigned to the 13th Psychological Operations (Psyops) battalion attached to the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, but opted not to strike up a conversation since he said nothing to me after he took the photos. Maybe he was doing undercover work for the NSA (National Security Agency) or the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency.)
There was enough time before the Indians-Padres game for me to go home, have lunch and take a nap before boarding an RTA rapid transit train downtown.
I positioned myself at the northwest corner of East Ninth Street and Carnegie Avenue to catch as many passersby on foot and in vehicles as possible with my message. There were several friendly toots of horns and passengers in one car passing by gave me a thumbs up and a woman shouted “God bless you.” A woman pedestrian walked up to me and also said “God bless you” and thanked me for what I was doing. One especially-grateful, effusive woman who shook my hand said it was thanks to me that she has freedom. That’s more than a bit of a stretch, to say the least, but I appreciated the sentiment, even though neither the Viet Cong nor North Vietnamese Army posed any threat to our freedoms.
I cheerily greeted many people, adding “It’s a beautiful day, eh?” or “It’s a gorgeous day, eh?” Many responded in kind while others appeared to be deaf, some replete with scowls. Oh, well. At least my message will not be forgotten soon.
Two Cleveland policemen directing traffic at the intersection took a break and walked over to me. One shook hands with me, saying, “You’ve been here all afternoon.” I said, “Yeah, I call it a labor of love.” I shook the second officer’s hand.
One young man who stopped to talk was a bit uncomfortable with my presence, but we nevertheless had a good conversation about various war-related topics. He asked how we should deal with terrorism and I said we can only thwart terrorism through sophisticated espionage and undercover work. I said, “When we kill people with our drones and airstrikes we generate fresh hatred of the United States among survivors of our attacks and provide terrorist leaders with opportunities to recruit new terrorists.” I cited undercover work a few years ago by informants who thwarted plots in this country to kill as many soldiers as possible at Ft. Dix, New Jersey and another plot to blow up jet fuel pipelines leading to JFK Airport in New York City.
He brought up World War II and our involvement in the war in Europe. I said Germany and Italy declared war on us so we had no choice but to defend ourselves, which included fighting for our French and British allies.
Regarding his question about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, I said we had provoked Japan to launch the attack because we had instituted a total embargo on scrap iron and oil in the summer of 1941 that was “strangling” that country and that the reason for the embargo was that after Japan invaded China in the 1930s, American firms were afraid Japan would corner the market on the tin, rubber and oil resources in southeast Asia that were important to U.S. firms. “It (war) always comes down to money,” I said.
I met a man from Chile and his two young friends from the Philippines. I said, “Some people have asked me where are the stars on your flag? And I say, ‘They’re in hiding. They’re ashamed, embarrassed and disgusted by all the death, destruction, instability and chaos we have caused in the Middle East.’ If I had my way I would make the peace flag the American flag. We need much more peace, civility, tolerance and mutual respect in our society.”
Back to the Lakewood parade. As I walked to my car in the Lakewood Park parking lot, a mom ran up to me, saying she had been chasing me since I walked away from Lake Avenue. She asked if she could take my picture and I said, “Are you with the NSA? The CIA?”
She said, “The PTA.”
I said, “Oh, okay…I’m okay with the PTA.”