Beginning today, for the first time since the Fall of 2019, regular-season football games at FirstEnergy Stadium are allowed to have a full-capacity crowd and I took full advantage of the opportunity to promote peace to hundreds and hundreds of Browns fans, along with a few Houston Texans fans, streaming toward the southwest gate of the stadium. This meant maximum exposure for the peace flag and Lou’s message.
Most people appreciated my presence and message, with many shaking my hand, giving me fist bumps, saluting me, giving me a thumbs-up or flashing the peace sign. Those who didn’t like what they saw ignored me, although some politely acknowledged my cheery greeting, even if they didn’t like my peace flag. One woman–I’m guessing in her 40s–approached me with open arms and gave me a warm bear hug. I told her as she walked away, “Thanks…you made my day!” She turned and smiled. Ellie, a white-haired elderly fan–okay, she’s probably about my age–stopped to shake hands as she had in past years before pre-pandemic Browns games. She said she missed seeing me at last season’s games and I told her that since the crowd size was severely limited because of covid, I didn’t want to bother being outside the stadium when there would have been much fewer people to greet. I told her I might see her before next Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.
A little boy about seven years old walking hand-in-hand with his dad waved and said, “Hi, general!” I said, “Well, that’s not quite right, but thanks.” I prompted laughs from several people when, after they thanked me for my service, I said, ‘Wasn’t my idea. I got drafted!!” A few people followed up by saying they appreciated my service even more- so, since I answered my government’s call to serve when I didn’t want to. After all, there was a war going on in Vietnam. I mentioned to one man, “If I had run off to Canada, my parents would have disowned me.” He said insightfully, “You would have disowned yourself.” One smiling young man approaching me with hand outstretched to shake my hand said, “tough motherfucker.” His comment reminded me of a middle-age man several years ago outside the stadium telling me I was “brave” for being there.
One of two young men who stopped to shake my hand and thank me for my service said, “Thanks to you, I’m able to be here.” Well, that’s a bit of a stretch. I assume he was thinking that our military provides him the freedom to attend Browns games. Well, not quite. Looking him squarely in the eye, I firmly said, “Many people think our military is keeping us safe when the exact opposite is true. When our military kills people and destroys property with our weapons of mass destruction, it simply generates more hatred for the United States among survivors of our attacks” He quietly said, “Makes sense.” I said “Those truly keeping us safe are state and local police, the FBI and the CIA,” adding that sometimes the latter two organizations “stub their toe”, which, I admit is a HUGE understatement. I’m reminded of the Indianapolis office of the FBI that failed miserably to do its job after receiving complaints of sexual abuse alleged by several Olympic gymnasts this past week The athletes included Simone Biles and Ally Raisman, who testified before a congressional committee in the U.S. Capitol. I continued my discourse with the two Browns fans, who listened intently to what I had to say. “Some people have said my flag disrespects or desecrates the American flag and I have said, ‘I have a different perspective. I was in Vietnam for a year and from my perspective it doesn’t disrespect the American flag. It profoundly respects peace. Those who haven’t been in a war–have not experienced the bitter taste of war-can never ever respect peace to the same degree I do. It just can’t happen. It’s impossible.” “Makes sense,” the one young man quietly said. I continued, “When some people have said, ‘Thank you for serving our country,’ I have replied, ‘I didn’t serve my country. I served deceitful, lying, fear-mongering, war-mongering politicians and their war-profiteering bed partners. Those truly serving our country are the medics, nurses, doctors and mental health professionals who work very very hard to mend as best they can, the psyches and bodies of those ravaged and savaged by war. They are the real war heroes. Not those who kill and destroy. That’s not heroic. It’s barbaric.” The two gentlemen got an earful–admittedly–again thanked me for my service, and went on their way to the game. I gave them plenty to think about.