Last evening was the first of four Cleveland Browns exhibition games prior to the start of the regular season, which begins in Cleveland when the Browns take on the Pittsburgh Stillers September 10th.
As I have done in recent years, I decided to promote peace about a hundred yards from the southwestern gate of FirstEnergy Stadium yesterday greeting fans of the visiting New Orleans Saints as well as Browns fans. Of course I was in uniform and carrying my peace flag.
As usual, there were many stern faces from men and some women. Those most receptive to my message, though were women. Several men and women, though, reached out to shake my hand and thank me for my service. One man said, “I see you’re back for another year,” remembering my presence in previous years. Another said, “It’s nice to see you again.” I said, “Same here.”
A few wanted their picture taken with me, which I of course obliged.
One sweet young thing who noticed my First Infantry Division (“Big Red One”) patch on my left shoulder shook my hand and said she also had served in the division. I said, “Fort Riley?” And she said ‘yes.’ (Fort Riley, Kansas, is the division’s headquarters.) I then asked if she had been overseas and she said she had served in Korea and I said, “Good. No war there.” (Not yet, anyway.)
One gentleman said his father had served with the division during World War II in North Africa and was part of the D-Day invasion, landing at Omaha Beach.
The most poignant moment came when a woman grasped my hand tightly and I said, “I tell people what I do here is a ‘labor of love’. I’m trying to get across the idea that some war veterans are pro-peace.”
I could tell from her facial expression that she was close to tears, but she walked away before crying, saying nothing.
On a lighter note, one somewhat overweight young woman who noted my uniform said, “It still fits!”
I said, “I’m sucking in my gut as we speak.”
She said, “Me too.”