Promoting peace at the annual Feast of the Assumption procession in Little Italy

It has been at least a couple of years since I did my peacenik shtick during the Feast of the Assumption festival in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood, walking in the solemn procession in uniform and carrying my peace flag. The procession is always on the actual feast day, August 15th, and this year it happened to fall on a Tuesday, which was an off day from work for me.
As usual there were a lot of serious solemn faces among spectators along the procession route–and not just because it was a holy day for Roman Catholics. I suspect much of the deadpan expressions were because observers were not comfortable with my presence. The good news is that there were no insults nor criticism–and no one threw a canoli at me.
Shortly before the procession began, while standing on Mayfield Road with my still-furled peace flag, a man walked up to me with camera in hand and struck up a conversation, noting he was a Marine veteran, but had not been in Vietnam. We compared notes on our military service. A short time later, as the procession began, I walked past the Marine who had his back to me and as I passed him I unfurled my peace flag and said, “Do you think the Prince of Peace would like my flag?” He was pleasantly surprised by what he saw, judging from his positive comment.
Along the lengthy route on several side streets in the neighborhood, a few people took my photo and I asked that they circulate it as much as possible. A gathering of about four people applauded–the only people who applauded my message.
The procession ended where it began in front of Holy Rosary Catholic Church on Mayfield Road, with the main feature of the procession being a float carrying a statue of the mother of the Prince of Peace. Also on the float were several young girls wearing white dresses.
A man walked up to me and when he asked what I was doing there, I became a bit apprehensive. I explained that I was there to promote peace, that I wanted to get across the idea that some war veterans are pro-peace and that I was simply trying to give people something to think about. Turns out he appreciated my message very much, strongly thanking me for being there and then taking my photo with his cell phone.
Another supportive man walked up to me and noted that a couple of men he had been standing with told him I was “disrespecting the (American) flag.” I disagreed, saying “I’m respecting peace.”
“Let me guess,” I said to my friend. “The two men have never been in a war.” He smiled and said that was true and I said, “Did you ever notice that those who shout the loudest for war have never been in one? What a funny coincidence.” He smiled in understanding.
When I told this story to my daughter Bridget after I arrived home I said, “I’m a Christian first and an American second.”