Armistice Day in Auburn

November 11, 2016

by Kristi Nebel

For eight years now Steve and I have been making our almost-annual pilgrimage to the Auburn Veteran’s Day Parade.  Steve claims 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. 

Around twenty of us this year lined up with various flags in a loosely uniform set of couples.  At the head of the group is held a ten-foot-long banner reading “Veterans for Peace”.  Behind the banner are two American flags and then behind that two more flags which substitute the peace sign in the spot where the flag usually show stars next to the stripes.  Behind that Steve and I hold our flag showing our Tacoma chapter of Veterans for Peace.  And behind us are six more members parading in couples, each holding Veterans for Peace flags.  We are all feeling relaxed this year though our numbers are a bit off from the height of the war years when we had as many as 35 participants from all over the state.  Needless to say, the atmosphere during past marches was tense.  This marks the tenth year the group has marched in the biggest Veteran’s Day parade west of the Mississippi,  and we weren’t always welcomed.  In 2012 the City of Auburn in all it’s wisdom made a decision to exclude us.  At that point the Seattle chapter #92 took the case to court with the help of the ACLU and won our right to return to the march.  So it was with great pride that this year the chapter celebrated it’s tenth year of marching because it was not without a fight.  Their secretary, Kim, commemorated it with the production of tee-shirts reading: “MARCHING FOR PEACE / AUBURN VETERANS DAY PARADE 2006—2016 / VETERANS FOR PEACE / WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER / /”. 

We brought one home as a souvenir.

In truth though I’ve seldom seen active resistance while we were marching.  As we pass the hundreds of watchers I think in eight years I may have seen only a handful of people expressing disapproval.  This year there were none.  It was a relentlessly rainy year so the crowd of onlookers was much smaller.  The applause is a bit sparser this year.  But every year I look carefully and closely into the eyes of women and men and see the same little miracle.  I think a parade is a very curious event.  I consider it to be a very elemental, almost primitive display, of people just walking in front of people.  And yet it evokes such powerful responses.  A quiet little thunderbolt erupts within 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 Solders, and tanks and horses.  Then comes the word “Peace”.  It happens every time.  Their eyes get watery.  This time as we passed one wheel-chair-bound Native American elderly 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 who 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 while 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.  With the presidential debates we see it’s so very hip to claim (falsely on both sides) to have been against the war in Iraq.  But it feels no less dangerous with things heating up in Syria and Yemen, that could lead to another U.S.-involved war.  And of course we’re not completely out of Afghanistan nor Iraq.  The group met afterwards in a church for lunch and discussed the holiday.  VFP #92 very wisely will not call it Veteran’s Day, but rather, Armistice Day in honor of it’s original intent to commemorate the agreement  that came from “war to end all wars”.
Written by Kristi Nebel, Chapter 134 Tacoma (Secretary)