Peace vigil on Greenfield Common calls for return of Armistice Day

  • Greenfield native Eric Wasileski washes an American flag that he brought to Saturday’s Armistice Day vigil on the Greenfield Common. A veteran, he said washing the flag was a “symbol of reclaiming our national heritage.” STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Greenfield native Eric Wasileski washes an American flag that he brought to Saturday’s Armistice Day vigil on the Greenfield Common. A veteran, he said washing the flag was a “symbol of reclaiming our national heritage.” STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • The Raging Grannies perform at Saturday’s Armistice Day vigil on the Greenfield Common. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • An Armistice Day vigil was held on the Greenfield Common Saturday morning to mark 103 years since the end of World War I and a call for peace around the world. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • An Armistice Day vigil was held on the Greenfield Common Saturday morning to mark 103 years since the end of World War I and a call for peace around the world. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Vietnam War veteran Tarak Kauff speaks at Saturday’s Armistice Day vigil on the Greenfield Common. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/14/2021 4:50:15 PM

GREENFIELD — Dozens gathered on the Greenfield Common Saturday morning to observe “the original intent” of Armistice Day, which was to celebrate the end of world conflicts.

Sponsored by the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice and the Peace Task Force of Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution (FCCPR), the event featured speeches from U.S. military veterans, who were affiliated with the national peace activist group Veterans For Peace, and local musicians performing anti-war music.

Pat Hynes, a member of the Traprock’s board of directors, said she was “very happy” with the turnout as people gathered to share their desire for an end to all wars. She noted the attendees of the event were older and it probably had to do with the strong anti-war feelings they developed in the 1960s and ’70s.

“This is a movement to turn Nov. 11 back to Armistice Day,” Hynes explained. “We lived through the Vietnam War and it was really politicizing — the type of politicizing that sticks with you.”

Armistice Day was first celebrated Nov. 11, 1919 to mark one year of peace after the end of World War I. The holiday was renamed to Veterans Day on June 1, 1954 to honor the contributions of all U.S. military members in all conflicts.

Hynes specifically highlighted the United States’ history of war over the past century and how she thinks it has been ineffective.

“Our approach to national security has failed and we have destroyed countries,” Hynes said after the event. “We are a less secure country, we are more divided. … Terrorism has come here.”

Vietnam War veteran Tarak Kauff, of Woodstock, Vt., compared war to the darkness of winter, but said an end to conflict across the globe will come, much like the first sprouts of spring.

“This is the winter of our time and it’s a long winter, but the Earth is going to keep revolving around the sun,” Kauff said. “Someday war will end. … There will come a springtime.”

The event also featured musical performances from local musicians Tom Neilson and Lynn Waldron, who sang anti-war protest songs with refrains like “making a killing off killing,” which references defense contractors like Raytheon profiting from war. The Raging Grannies, a social activist group of older women who sing satirical songs about topics like war, also performed.

Pittsfield resident and Greenfield native Eric Wasileski brought out a dirtied American flag for attendees to wash the stains of war away.

“I can’t wash this by myself,” said Wasileski, who is a veteran. “This is cleansing the symbol of our country. … It is a symbol of reclaiming our national heritage.”

Wasileski said war not only kills people directly, but the mental and environmental effects have far-reaching consequences.

“The number one threat in the world right now is global warming and environmental change,” Wasileski said. “The number one user and destroyer of the Earth is militarism and the military. They use more oil, nuclear fuel, anything.”

After the event, he further explained that “one of the fruits of war is veteran suicide.” Wasileski said changing Veterans Day to Armistice Day is the first step to ending all conflict. The second is removing standing armies, which are professional full-time forces. The U.S. did not have a universal force prior to World War I compared to the other powers because the Atlantic Ocean provided enough defense at the time, according to the U.S. Army’s website.

“The intermediate step is getting rid of standing armies,” Wasileski said. “It’s time to go back to pre-World War I days.”

With several dozen people in attendance, Hynes said organizers were able to spread their message of peace, but more needs to be done around the country.

“(Our message) is not effective enough. We need a national awareness that a majority of discretionary funding goes to the military,” Hynes said. “We need to shift funding from war to diplomacy. It needs to be dramatically shifted.”

For fiscal year 2022, the United States has budgeted $753 billion for national security alone, while allocating $769 billion for non-defense discretionary funding, according to the White House’s funding request.

Greenfield resident Ted Scott said he has been attending the weekly peace vigils held on the common since 2006 to make up for his time working on military projects. He added that he too is upset at how much money is being spent on the military, especially with the dangers of climate change approaching.

“I worked on a few military projects that I regret. I’m trying to atone for that,” Scott said. “When you consider how much money is wasted on the military … that could save the world.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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