Franklin Countys First News

Veterans organize peace walk through Maine


Doug Rawlings, an organizer for the Maine Walk for Peace, Human Needs, and Veterans' Care to be held Nov. 2-11.

FARMINGTON - Led by a Buddhist monk, Veterans for Peace is organizing a 130-mile walk across Maine next month in an effort to bring an awareness of the cost of war to communities along the way.

Veterans and supporters are encouraged to join the Maine Walk for Peace, Human Needs, and Veterans' Care which kicks off in Farmington with a potluck supper 6 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Old South Church on Main Street in Farmington. The election night program will discuss the current costs of war, no matter which political party controls Congress, said organizer Doug Rawlings of Farmington.

The eight-day walk will average 16 miles a day and ends in Portland on Nov. 10. Veterans and supporters of the walk will then participate in the Veterans Day parade on Nov. 11 in Portland. Most evenings during the walk a program and discussion session will be held at local churches and schools. Some people will walk the entire distance while others will join the walk for an hour, or a day, or several days.

The walk will be led by Buddhist monk Rev. Gyoway Kato of the Nipponzan Myohoji order from Western Massachusetts that conducts peace walks all over the world. Last April Rev. Kato led a similar walk through Maine calling for an end to the nuclear arms race. The monks chant as they lead the peace walk. Rawlings, a founding member of the Maine VFP who has participated in a similar event said walking in silence and listening to the chanting "got to me."

"I was really impressed with the spiritual nature of it," he said. Those who participating will be doing so not as protesters, but to remind the public that thousands of soldiers suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and military sexual trauma are being redeployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Suicides in the military have reached an all-time high.

War's financial burden to taxpayers will be discussed as well. Since 2001 Maine taxpayers have paid $2.8 billion for the cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The nation is presently spending $8 billion a month on the Afghanistan war. VFP contends that this enormous spending on war, forcing cutbacks in education, health care, infrastructure, and social spending, is a major contributing factor for the economic collapse in 45 states across the nation, according to the peace walk's press statement.

The peace walk will also focus on the environmental costs of war. From the defoliation of the forests in Vietnam, to the oil fires of Kuwait and Iraq, all major wars in the high-tech age, including current conflicts like Afghanistan, have had a hidden casualty: the environment. Unexploded weapons, polluted rivers, contaminated soil, and damaged landscapes have all harmed human health, local economies, and ecosystems.

"The purpose of this walk, at least for me, is to listen to my neighbors' stories about the impact of these wars on their families and their hometowns. I want to walk, to bear witness, to listen, and then to put their stories into the public dialogue about war. I want to give voice to those whose voices have not been heard," Rawlings said.

The potluck supper 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 2 at the Old South Church on Main Street will include brief remarks from the leaders of the walk and a half hour of music from Ruth Hill. If you have any dishes you'd like to provide, please contact Doug Rawlings at 293-2580. If you're planning on joining us on Nov. 3rd, please let Rawlings know.

For full walk schedule and registration information see
http://vfpmaine.org/vfp.htm

Below is the full peace walk schedule.

- Farmington program on November 2 to kick-off the peace walk

- Farmington to Skowhegan on November 3

- Skowhegan to Waterville on November 4

- Waterville to Bangor on November 5

- Bangor to Belfast on November 6

- Belfast to Rockland on November 7

- Rockland to Bath on November 8

- Bath to Freeport on November 9

- Freeport to Portland on November 10

- VFP will participate in the Veterans Day parade on November 11 in Portland

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