For over 15 years, Veterans for Peace Chapter 42 has marched in the Connecticut Veterans Parade. Despite official attempts to prevent the anti-war contingent from participating in the parade following the 2003 Iraq Invasion, the VFP Chapter 42 contingent has become an integral part of the parade. This last Sunday, November 2, was no exception as chapter members, their family, and friends reinforced the meaning of freedom of speech. As always, the parade in Hartford is the weekend before the much bigger parade in New York City.
Dave Ionno, Chapter 42 organizer, has been active with Veterans for Peace for many decades. During his tour of duty in Vietnam he became aware of what it meant to go to war. He says, "Today, I as a member of VFP, go into the schools and read and talk to high school students about what it means to go to war. I stress that 22 suicides a day occur among veterans, and that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an invisible moral injury as described by Dr. Jonathan Shays in his book 'Achilles in Viet Nam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character.'"
VFP Chapter 42 invited their members and supporters to the parade. As usual VFP encouraged their fellow marchers to bring along signs. Dave said, "We have a right to carry these signs in this parade. The messages on these signs are examples of protected free speech which is central to what the veterans in this parade fought for. They swore an oath to protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. This was not an allegiance to a political party or particular political leaders, but rather to the Constitution. And the Constitution included the Bill of Rights. All are invited—including those with 9/11-related messages."
In recent years, the 9/11 Truth-related messages have become more prominent within the contingent. This year was no exception as 9/11 shared the spotlight with signs saying "Bring the Troops Home Now" and "Change War Jobs to Peace Jobs."
One member of the contingent took an Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth banner, "9/11 Truth Good-For-America," and walked the parade route in reverse. "Once the roads are closed to vehicular traffic, the best place to walk is the middle of the road in the reverse direction," said Wayne. "The spectators that are lining the streets have nothing to look at, and if you are the only person on the parade route and you are visible, you will get a lot of attention. There is no other real competition for their attention."
Once Wayne encountered the beginning of the parade coming down the street, it was time to step aside, hold the banner and let the marchers see the "9/11 Truth Good For America" message. Wayne recounted that near the head of the march was the Connecticut Congressional delegation including Senator Blumenthal, Senator Murphy, Representative John Larson and others. As they walked by with an increasingly spritely step once they saw the banner, they were reminded to read the 28 redacted pages from the "Report of The Joint Inquiry into the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001."
Wayne said, "As I watched the parade progressing and waited for the VFP contingent to approach, a thousand or more marchers saw the banner. These marchers ranged from high school bands to Korean War veterans to firefighters and many others. The reception was heartening. I got thumbs up and positive nods from lots of people who reacted. You could see the faces of some that they had no idea what "9/11 Truth Good For America" was referring to, but many more did understand the message and responded positively." Wayne continued, "There were only two comments from spectators that suggested that I should leave. Only two! My, how things have changed in the last year or so!"
Once the VFP contingent arrived, the number of marchers in the VFP increased as Wayne joined them. In addition to the active marchers, there were several other supporters who were handed out hundreds of 9/11 Truth Outreach brochures to the spectators.
All in all, the outreach related to 9/11 Truth was viewed by thousands of spectators along the parade route and another thousand in the parade itself. With receptivity to the 9/11 Truth message increasing compared to past years, it seems that now we need to focus on getting all those that agree with us to speak up.
Steve Fournier, another member of VFP Chapter 42 said, "There is nothing more important to encourage others to speak up than for them to see good role models who have the courage to speak up."