Published Nov 01, 2010
FARMINGTON — Maine Veterans for Peace will begin a 10-day peace walk in Farmington with a celebratory potluck meal and program at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Old South First Congregational Church. The public is welcome.
The Maine Walk for Peace, Human Needs and Veterans Care, starts Wednesday morning when a core group will head for Skowhegan then on to Waterville, Bangor, Belfast, Rockland, Bath, Freeport and Portland to join the Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11.
Because of the distances between, there will be a shuttle for part of each day, but an average of 18 miles or less will be walked each day, said Bruce Gagnon of Bath, a member of Maine Veterans for Peace.
People are welcome to join the walk for an hour, a day or the whole trip, he said. A core group of about 20 people intend to make the whole trek. Local groups in each town will host an evening potluck meal and program and provide housing and breakfast for those on the trek.
Tuesday's first meal in Farmington is a celebratory kickoff with a student peace group from the University of Maine at Farmington helping, he said. UMF President Theodora Kalikow will provide a welcome and Douglas Rawlings from UMF and a founding member of Maine Veterans for Peace, will say a few words. The Nipponzan Myohoji order of Buddhist monks and nuns with the Rev. Gyoway Kato will lead the 128-mile walk, Rawlings said.
The Buddhist monk order has participated in several walks and conferences around Maine, Gagnon said.
When the group reaches Skowhegan on Wednesday night, doctors, social workers and teachers will provide a presentation on what they are seeing in life, a decline of social progress, he said.
Each night's presentation will be different and is intended to start a conversation with community members on their reason for the walk.
Concerns about war, the cost of the war in Afghanistan and the cost to returning veterans whose rates of suicide and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders are high, were noted as motivators for the walk.
“Few people know that the cost of the war is more than $8 billion a month ... with the country spending that much money, there's no money available for much else,” Gagnon said. "We want to shine a light on these deep concerns and create a discussion as we go through."
Several towns on the route are college towns as the group wants to get students and young people involved. They want to start them talking about the future and the demise of social progress in America.
A new peace group started on the UMF campus this semester, Peace Activists in Training, or PAINT, is helping with the meal Tuesday, Rawlings said. He is an adviser for the group.
That the start of the peace walk falls on election night is partially intentional. No matter which party controls Congress, the war goes on, Gagnon said. With massive bases being built there, there's no intent to come home. The group hopes to garner more legislative attention and action.
Veterans for Peace is a national organization that started in Maine 25 years ago, Gagnon said. There are now 100 chapters comprised of veterans from all wars. This past summer the state group hosted the 25th national convention.
Veterans for Peace is committed to working on the cost of war and bringing attention to post traumatic stress disorder by offering conferences and education for not only soldiers but also their families, he said.
Notes and videotapes taken along the peace walk will be posted on its website.
The public is welcome to walk or attend the evening potlucks and programs. Information on the schedule is posted at vfpmaine.org/vfp.htm.