Monday, May 21 , 2018, 6:41 pm | Fair 65º


Local News

Santa Barbara Veterans for Peace Honored for Work on Memorial

The local chapter took the lead in creating an Arlington West memorial of the Iraq War.

Veterans for Peace Chapter 54-Santa Barbara was honored Sunday at a banquet in Los Angeles with the prestigious Peace and Justice Award for its work in initiating the Arlington West memorial and carrying it forward during the past five years.

Along with actors/peace activists Bill Farrell and Sean Penn, Veterans for Peace were the guests of honor at the 25th anniversary celebration of the Office of the Americas, the international peace organization founded by Blaise and Theresa Bonpane. The award was presented by noted Vietnam War veteran and activist Ron Kovic. A distinguished audience at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel joined in the tribute.

Ron Dexter, a Korean War veteran and a longtime VFP member, accepted the award on behalf of Chapter 54 and other Veterans for Peace chapters across the country that have followed the local chapter’s lead in creating Iraq War memorials modeled on Arlington National Cemetery.

Dexter traced the evolution of Arlington West from a protest to a memorial, reaching beyond the “choir” to bring home to a wider audience the realities of war and the achievable goals of peace.

The official award citation reads as follows:

“Office of the Americas Presents its Peace and Justice Award to Veterans for Peace.

“The Office of the Americas and Veterans for Peace share a common objective. We both are dedicated to the abolishment of war as an instrument of national policy. Together with Veterans for Peace we want to see an economy where the bankruptcy of military production is replaced by the life affirming investments in social programs for national and international betterment. We believe a better world is possible.

“Veterans for Peace has chosen non-violence as their methodology and the impact of that soul force resounds internationally.

“The Arlington West Memorial began with the Santa Barbara Chapter and has spread throughout the United States. News programs have featured these memorials which have drawn respect from the entire political spectrum. Veterans for Peace are out on the beaches before dawn each Sunday to set up markers for the dead and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also have a special beachside statement on behalf of the peoples of these countries who have died in an unnecessary and illegal holocaust.

“Veterans for Peace has a multitude of other programs as well. In Vietnam they bring medical supplies, build clinics and advocate for victims of agent orange (dioxin). In Korea they have created the Korean Peace Campaign to investigate massacres conducted by our troops in that yet unresolved conflict. In Colombia they conduct fact finding missions to educate our citizens about our military involvement, the role of paramilitary death squads, human rights abuses, and the impact of chemical defoliants in the so-called “War on Drugs.” In Puerto Rico Veterans for Peace has struggled to end six decades of U.S. Navy bombing and shelling on the Island of Vieques.

“And every year your members are participating in the huge demonstration to close the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia.

“We thank you, Veterans for Peace, for your service to your country and for demonstrating authentic patriotism at a time when our country has lost its way.”

Bob Potter is vice president of Veterans for Peace Chapter 54-Santa Barbara.

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