My effort to promote peace Tuesday evening got off to a pleasant, wry start on East Fourth Street in downtown Cleveland while heading to The Jake–er, I mean Progressive Field- to greet drivers and pedestrians on their way to the match-up between the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians–the Battle of Ohio. Of course I was wearing my rather tight 51-year-old U.S. Army dress uniform and carrying my peace flag.
I was stopped by a man who, after seeing me walk by an outdoor table of a restaurant, ran up to me. He appreciated very much my peace message. I asked if he also is a Vietnam veteran and he answered in the affirmative. I asked what year he was there. When he indicated it was the early ’70s I said, “Aw, you missed out on the Tet Offensive” (Jan-Feb, 1968). He said, “Yeah, but we still saw plenty of action.” He was in the army’s Signal Corps, in the Mekong Delta. I elaborated on the intentions of my presence, saying, “We need much more peace, civility, tolerance, mutual respect and compassion in our society. They’ve been in short supply the last few years.” He smiled and said, “Since 2016?” I too smiled, as each of us knew what the other was thinking. “Yeah,” I said. “Funny coincidence…it began with the Trump campaign.”
During my time at my East Ninth Street-Carnegie Avenue post, I mentioned the same qualities of a civilized society to a young woman who greatly appreciated my presence and she added the quality of “empathy” to my list. Then she said, “I want to shake your hand.” Her male companion was not quite on board with her position, judging from the polite back-and-forth between the two as I stood there. I enjoyed engaging with some of the folks wearing Cincinnati Reds gear, saying, “I don’t know about you, but I think Pete Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.” Nearly everyone agreed. I also said to some Reds fans, “I went to school near you.” “Where?” one man said. “Miami, in Oxford.,” I said. He said, “Been there many times.” I try not to be argumentative or confrontational with people who say something negative, using a touch of sarcastic humor in response. For example, last Friday when I was at my post for a Yankees-Indians game, a man said as he walked by, “Wrong flag.” I cheerily responded, “Thank you!!”
The following day, at the annual Parade the Circle behind the Cleveland Museum of Art, an elderly couple–okay, they were probably about my age–stopped to chat. Turns out the man said he worked at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., caring for wounded or sick veterans in the early ’70s. He said he had made a flower arrangement in the shape of a peace symbol displayed in the hospital, but his message was short-lived, taken away by the next day. “That’s the Army for ya,” I said.