Portland Press Herald
They're fighting for peace: Veterans head to Portland for convention
Veterans for Peace, founded in Maine 25 years ago, will attract people from all over the U.S.
By Dennis Hoeydhoey@mainetoday.com
PORTLAND — A national peace organization whose members include veterans from all the major wars is returning to its roots here in Maine.
Starting Wednesday, Portland will host the 25th anniversary convention of Veterans for Peace.
The organization was founded in Maine in 1985.
More than 300 veterans from across the United States have already registered to participate in the convention at the Holiday Inn by the Bay Hotel and Convention Center on Spring Street.
The gathering starts Wednesday and will end Sunday morning with a peace march and rally through downtown Portland.
"It seemed logical to bring the convention home to Maine for its 25th anniversary," said Michael Uhl, a South Bristol resident and Vietnam War veteran who serves on the group's national board.
Uhl said the convention will feature several guests, from musician Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary fame and Iraq war veteran Geoff Millard, to U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., Chairman of the House of Representatives Veterans Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
While most of the convention events are closed to the public, there will be an open meeting at First Parish Meeting House on Congress Street Thursday night, at which guest speakers will talk about the costs of waging war.
"It (the convention) is not for everyone. We're not going to get a whole lot of people from the Tea Party," Uhl said.
Mike Ferner, who serves as president of National Veterans for Peace in St. Louis, Mo., said the theme of the Portland convention will be "Lifting the Fog of War."
"Lifting the fog of war is an artistic way of saying, lets expose the real costs of war. It has become a central theme of our work," Ferner said.
Participants will share their war experiences and listen to some of the more compelling stories.
Maja Kazazic will be featured during the opening ceremony Thursday morning. A Bosnian War refugee whose legs were shattered in 1993 by a mortar shell that landed in her courtyard, Kazazic was relocated to Maryland through the Veterans for Peace "Children of War Rescue Project."
Since then, she has taught herself English, gone to college, and established a successful web development company.
The convention will also offer poetry readings by war veterans, films, and workshops.
Bruce Gagnon of Bath is organizing Sunday's peace march and rally at Post Office Square.
A Vietnam War-era veteran, Gagnon said protesters -- the public is invited to participate -- will gather at 9 a.m. at the Holiday Inn, march through the Old Port, and stage an hour-long rally at Post Office Square on Market and Exchange streets.
"It will be very spirited," Gagnon said.
"We are spending more than $7 billion a month on the war in Afghanistan. If we can end the war and bring that money home, there could be a whole new world out there with a real chance for economic recovery," he said.