PUBLISHED: 5:09 PM on Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Juneau residents support local Veterans for Peace Chapter 100

Courtesy photo
  Juneau members of Veteran For Peace Chapter 100 protest at Marine Park with other members of the organization from across the country.
A national organization dedicated to promoting world peace claimed a specific day in Juneau, Veterans For Peace Day, to further public awareness of the cost of war.

Veterans for Peace Chapter 100 of Juneau is working for peace and justice through non-violence.

VFP is one of 135 chapters nation-wide that have more than 5,000 members in total. Fifty-five of those members are Alaskans and of those members 35 are Juneau residences.

The local chapter was founded three and a half years ago about the time the Iraq war began.

Juneau's VFP is part of a national non-profit organization founded in 1985 that supports the message through their personal experiences that wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that the innocent are often hurt, thus, other means of problem solving are necessary.

Mayor Bruce Botelho proclaimed Aug. 16 as Veterans For Peace Day in Juneau.

The proclamation states that, "all of our citizens should work toward the goal of reducing international tensions through non-violent pursuit of peaceful alternatives to the scourge of war."

A vigil was held by the Veterans For Peace and they were joined by a group of veterans from across the country at noon Aug. 16 in Marine Park. These veterans were in town for a couple of hours, from the cruise ship Westerdam, and had just attended the Veterans for Peace national convention the previous weekend, Aug. 10-13, in Seattle.

President of VFP in Juneau, Phil Smith, was said he was appreciative of the support brought to their vigil.

"It was great to be joined by so many other members. They were wearing their T-shirts, had already made signs and were excited to join our protest in the park," Smith said.

Ed Hein, a VFP founding member who served during the Vietnam War in the U.S. Army, said the event gave a boost of support to their regular vigils. He said he enjoyed having members from around the country working to spread the same message he works continually to spread and to see such strong support from the mayor.

Local members of the organization include veterans of war and anyone dedicated to waging peace. They encourage any interested party to become a member and help support their cause.

VFP also has a strong presence in the public school district to educate the younger generation on the cost of war.

Hein said the group works in the schools to reach out to young people who are at the age who will be going to war.

"We want young people to think about these issues of war and peace," Hein said.

Member of VFP, Amy Paige, does a lot of work with the district to provide information about war, what issues it causes and alerts the students to ask questions and get them answered before signing up to go to war.

Paige and other VFP members visit classrooms to talk to students, have a booth at career day and hand out paperwork altering students of their option to not give personal information to the draft.

VFP also gives a $1,000 scholarship to high school graduates each year. This money comes out of the member's pockets and is part of their work to alert the younger generation.

The scholarship is available to all graduates including home-schoolers, alternative high school graduates and JDHS graduates.

Applicants are required to write a 1500 word essay answering a question posed by VFP. Last year the question was whether or not the U.S. should return to the draft.

Regular VFP meetings are held at 5:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at Northern Lights United Church, and at 8 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month at The Back Room of Silverbow.

Regular activities also include an anniversary rally of the U.S. invasion of Iraq on March 19th, a Memorial Day service at Evergreen Cemetery and a reading of the names of U.S. dead soldiers. They can also be seen marching in the July 4th Parade and protesting at noon each Wednesday in Marine Park or in front of the Capital Building.

Veterans For Peace use the phrase "honor the troops, mourn the dead and demand an end to the war."