The 2016 Veterans Day parade in Auburn is the largest west of the Mississippi.  --  After marching for the tenth straight year with the Tacoma Chapter of Veterans for Peace on Saturday, Kristi Nebel wrote up her reflections for the UFPPC website.[1]  --  "I think a parade is a very curious event," she said.  --  "I consider it to be a very elemental thing, an almost primitive display of people just walking in front of other people.  --  Yet it evokes such a powerful response.  --  A quiet little thunderbolt erupts in some of them as their eyes alight on the words 'Veterans for Peace.'"  ...  


By Kristi Nebel

** Reflections on Ten Years of Marching for Peace **

United for Peace of Pierce County
November 6, 2016

For eight years now, Steve and I have been making our almost-annual pilgrimage to the Auburn Veterans Day Parade.  Steve claims that it’s his one chance to be defiantly “in your face” with our peace message amidst the ubiquitous militarism of the day.  We march with the Seattle and Tacoma chapters of Veterans for Peace.  This year there were around twenty of us.  We lined up with various flags and formed a loosely uniform set of couples.  At the head of the group we held a ten-foot-long banner reading “Veterans for Peace.”  Behind the banner were two American flags, and then behind that two more flags that substitute the peace sign in the spot where the flag usually show stars next to the stripes.  Behind that, Steve and I held our flag identifying our Tacoma Chapter of Veterans for Peace.  And behind us were six more members parading in couples, each holding Veterans for Peace flags. 

We were all feeling relaxed this year though our numbers were a bit off from the height of the war years, when we had as many as thirty-five participants who came from all over the state of Washington.  Needless to say, the atmosphere during past marches was tense.  This marks the tenth year the group has marched in the biggest Veterans Day parade west of the Mississippi, but we weren’t always welcomed.  In 2012 the City of Auburn in all its wisdom made an attempt to exclude us.  The Seattle Chapter #92 took the case to court, and with the help of the ACLU we won an affirmation of our right to participate in the Veterans Day march.  So it was with great pride that this year the chapter celebrated our tenth year of marching, because it was not achieved without a fight.  The secretary, Kim, even commemorated it with the production of tee-shirts that read “MARCHING FOR PEACE / AUBURN VETERANS DAY PARADE 2006-2016 / VETERANS FOR PEACE / WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER / /”.  We brought one home as a souvenir.

The truth is, though, I’ve rarely seen active resistance while we were marching.  We pass hundreds of spectators, but over the years I may have seen only a handful of people express disapproval.  This year there were none at all.  It was a relentlessly rainy day, so the crowd of onlookers was much smaller.  The applause was a bit sparser this year.  But every year I look carefully and closely into the eyes of the women and men watching us, and every year I see the same little miracle. 

I think a parade is a very curious event.  I consider it to be a very elemental thing, an almost primitive display of people just walking in front of other people.  Yet it evokes such a powerful response.  A quiet little thunderbolt erupts in some of them as their eyes alight on the words “Veterans for Peace.”  They’ve been watching every kind and stripe of militarism march by in the forms of uniformed children, teenagers, women, seniors, varied ethnic groups, African-American Buffalo Soldiers, and tanks and horses.  Then comes the word “Peace.”  It happens every time.  Their eyes get watery.  This time, as we passed an elderly wheelchair-bound Native American man, I heard him say to his escort, “What’s that?”  The reply came, “Veterans for Peace.”  He then shouted at the top of his lungs, “YEAH!  VETERANS FOR PEACE!  YEAH!  HEY, EVERYBODY, CLAP!” 

Steve and I agreed that the only group besides ours who marched that we truly admired were the Buffalo Soldiers.  I won’t forget performing in Tacoma with my band, Cowgirl’s Dream, at the Hilltop Street Fair when they performed with their horses.  The horses danced on the grass of People’s Park, unrehearsed, in perfect time and tempo to our music.  That was a thrill for me, and totally unexpected.

I have to admit we’re feeling a bit gloat-y, all of us who have been working in this  peace movement together since 2003.  We've seen in the 2016 presidential debates that it’s so very hip to claim (falsely on both sides) to have been against the war in Iraq.  But the situation feels no less dangerous today, with things heating up in Syria and Yemen that could lead the nation into deeper involvement in another war.  And of course we’re not completely out of Afghanistan or Iraq. 

Our group met for lunch afterwards in a church and discussed the holiday.  VFP #92 very wisely will not call this holiday Veterans Day, but rather, Armistice Day -- in honor of its original intent:  commemoration of the consensus that sprang from what many believed was the “war to end war.”