August 11–For the first time since the last NFL season ended, I was downtown yesterday evening greeting folks headed to Cleveland Browns Stadium, formerly the politically incorrect FirstEnergy Stadium, for the Browns’ first preseason game, pitting the team against the Washington Commanders, formerly the politically incorrect Washington Redskins. Highlighting the evening was a rather testy comment from a young employee of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department, who I assume was a deputy sheriff.
After standing about a hundred yards from the southwest gate of the stadium for a couple of hours greeting football fans, an unexpected rainfall began, and I sought shelter under the Main Avenue bridge overpass. Winds off of Lake Erie resulted in the rain blowing onto me so I blocked the rain-soaked wind by standing next to a SWAT vehicle with the word SHERIFF in gold letters on the side. The driver’s door was open, and a fellow deputy was in the passenger seat. Since they were a “captive audience”, I started to proselytize for peace. Being a Vietnam veteran, I said, “I’m promoting peace. We were sent to Vietnam to kill communists and today, Vietnam, a communist country, is our ally against China. All those lives wasted. “When people thank me for serving our country I sometimes say, ‘I didn’t serve my country. I served deceitful, lying, fear mongering warmongering politicians and their war-profiteering bed partners’. “Those truly serving our country are medics, nurses, doctors and mental health professionals who work very very hard to mend as best they can the psyches and bodies of those savaged and ravaged by war. They’re the real war heroes.”
In retrospect, the deputy in the passenger seat apparently was getting his fill of my comments, with the “last straw” being my observation that “We call ourselves a Christian nation–followers of the Prince of Peace. What a sick joke that is.” The annoyed deputy said he didn’t want to hear any more “speeches” and I said, “Oh, okay. I’m just explaining why I’m here.” and I walked away, toward the stream of Browns and a few Commanders fans heading to the stadium despite the rain, with many wearing plastic ponchos.
Speaking of medics, a short time later a young man, George, and his friend Dylan, stopped to chat. Turns out George had been an Army combat medic and truck driver in Afghanistan. Both were so appreciative of my peace message that George asked one of the fans heading to the stadium to take a photo of us with his cell phone. It turned out to be a beautiful picture as the setting sun had broken through the rain clouds and the lighting on the three of us and my peace flag was perfect…. suitable for framing. George, now an Army reservist, said he is running for a seat on the Brookpark City Council but if he doesn’t win, he will apply for active duty and ask to be sent back to the Middle East, saying he wants to again help save lives rather than take lives.
Earlier in the evening a young woman said she liked my flag and I said, as is my wont, “Thanks. I wish everyone did.” At the other end of the spectrum, another young woman walking by said, “What kind of bullshit flag is that!!??” I said nothing. When the rain ended, about 8:45, the idea came to mind to end the evening on a high note with the deputy sheriffs, so I walked back to their vehicle and said, “Good evening gentlemen. Maybe I’ll see you again…but I won’t make any speeches. They smiled and the aggrieved deputy said, “Have a good one.”