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Sunday, May 26th, 2019 | Annual VFP Chapter 34 Memorial Day Observance in Battery Park, in front of the East Coast Memorial on the waterfront, near the Statue of Liberty Ferry.
Speech given by Susan Schnall
Good afternoon. My name is Susan Schnall-I am a veteran of the United States Navy and served two years on active duty in Oakland, California, caring for the wounded military returning from southeast Asia from 1967-1969. I am President of the New York City Chapter Veterans for Peace and a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
Thank you all for coming to this Memorial Day Observance, in remembrance of the true meaning of this day.
We usually begin with an invocation by Captain James Yee—a former US Muslim Chaplain who has experienced religious discrimination first hand. He saw it as a Muslim chaplain stationed at Guantanamo detention center where, when he objected to religious abuses against prisoners, he was accused of being a spy himself. Captain James Yee is a graduate of West Point who was arrested and imprisoned in a Naval brig in solitary confinement for 76 days in September of 2003, falsely accused by the government of spying, espionage and aiding the enemy. All criminal charges were dropped eventually; his record was wiped clean; he was reinstated to full duty at Fort Lewis, in Washington. He resigned from the US Army and received an honorable discharge January 7, 2005.
Unfortunately, Captain Yee is ill today. He is in our thoughts as we hold a moment of silence for all those suffering from violence and war in today’s world. I’d like to dedicate this year’s moment of silence to our beloved friend Bud Korotzer.
For most Americans, Memorial Day is a three day weekend signifying the beginning of summer-that weekend when we are told to drive carefully. Through television, we are witness to the thousands of motorists on the highway, we hear news reporters describe roadway traffic tie ups and long security lines at airports. And, of course, we see sales everywhere-as though one could celebrate the deaths of soldiers and civilians in war time through buying clothes or a washing machine. “Have a happy Memorial Day”-friends say to me—a happy Memorial Day? Is it possible to have a happy day when one is commemorating the war dead?
Hey America, Wake up and listen to me: we are at war in this country, on this land, we are killing our children, we have become the monster in the world that produces more armaments, more battleships, more drones that annihilate whole communities with the push of a button, we destroy our young, we kill schoolchildren with impunity, we poison our water and food supply, we give the wealthy everything— great economic wealth and political power so they can grab more opportunities for power and money while we starve the poor, denigrate them with substandard housing, substandard education, lack of decent job opportunities, and then offer a way out by joining the military. We arm the police departments with military weapons that destroy and kill—no trial necessary for the poor and disadvantaged.
Making the decision for a nation to go to war must include those who go to war as part of that process. It must include those who are required to give the ultimate sacrifice. And the war must include equal sacrifice from all. If I am not willing to send my child into battle, if I am not willing to fight, I have no right to send another. Until those politicians, those corporate leaders, those members of Congress, the President of the United states – send their children into harm’s way, they have no right to send my child, or your child, or anyone else.
And yet we send our military might all over the world—and use it against people of color here.
America-what have we become—that Memorial Day-the day to recognize the war dead- has become a holiday, has become a sales day—has become the epitome of American capitalism. How did material goods and vacations become synonymous with the respectful honoring of the war dead? How did we become immune to the dead children in Chicago, in Parkland, killed by gun violence—how did we become immune to school children killed by guns produced in America, by gunmen produced in America? We export our military violence to the highest bidder- America, we supply the arms used to kill schoolchildren in Yemen-we target them-their school buses. We starve the children in Syria as we starve the children in Venezuela. America, we look for wars as the outlets for our munitions industry. We perpetuate violence in the middle east-we starve, imprison, attack children in Gaza, the Palestinian children on the west bank.
America, we are the greatest purveyors of violence in the world today-and we celebrate our war economy by having a three day holiday and major sales events.
Memorial Day is supposed to be the day designated to remember and honor the war dead. This is the day to visit loved ones in cemeteries and memorials.
This is the day to remember the war dead and vow no more violence and killing.
We are Veterans For Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Veterans Peace Council—and we say no more war! We have been to war and been part of its destruction; we have witnessed the horrors of armed conflict; we have been part of the dehumanization of those deemed the enemy of the United States, and we say no more war!
No more war!