Veterans for Peace
Tom Sturtevant Chapter 1
November 19, 2015
USM Wishcamper Center
Portland, Maine

PRESENT: Richard Clement, Dan Ellis, Bill Leonard, Martha Morrison, Clarence Smith, Dave Crowley, Dave Larsen, Doug Rawlings, Bud Buzzell, Robin Spencer, John Morris, Peter Morgan, Regis Tremblay, Peter Woodruff, Bill Laidley, John Herrick, Peggy Akers, and Gerry Kamke.

  • Even before the meeting began at 7:00pm, Richard put out some more books from the Tom Sturtevant Library for members to paw through. I picked up THE SORROW OF WAR, a novel by Bao Ninh, a former NVA soldier that has been compared to ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. And I know Bud picked up a collection of WWI poems and others got some treasures, too. So the legacy of Tom Sturtevant continues on in yet another manifestation. Thank you, Richard.
  • We began the meeting with Doug Rawlings’s a cappella rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” upon request from Richard. He found the lyrics of this song in Tom’s archives, so he thought we should honor Tom by having your humble author of these minutes read it. I was moved by the tears welling up in others’ eyes until I heard the whispered comments around the table: “When is he ever going to stop?” Still, it is a powerful song.
  • The Secretary’s Report from the last meeting was accepted as written. Note: Bruce has stepped down from the Secretary’s position. Doug Rawlings, current vice-president, agreed to accept the Secretary’s position on an interim basis. If anyone wants to take over this task, please notify Richard. We thank Bruce for his past service as our chapter secretary.
  • The Treasurer’s Report was presented by Robin. The current balance is $5761.37 although I don’t think this reflects the checks received in support of the Peace Walk. Note: Robin had to announce that she needs to resign from the Treasurer’s position since she felt incapable of handling the job. We all appreciate what she has done in the brief time of her service as our treasurer and also appreciate her honesty in stepping down because of her own self-analysis. Dan Ellis, our current membership chair and website guru, agreed to take on the task as our chapter treasurer. One of the first acts we will have to take is transferring the account from the Augusta Credit Union that Robin used to Midcoast Federal Credit Union in Brunswick that Dan can use. Richard and Doug agreed to stay on as co-signers of the account. Bill Laidley asked about counter-signing checks — Richard informed us that we do not follow that practice although all checks more than $200 are discussed and agreed upon by the full chapter. Checks under that amount are left to the discretion of the chapter officers.
  • Richard announced that the bowling fundraiser organized by Rita and Peggy raised $315 for MaineShare. The bowling event was attended by twelve members whose sterling play and rather rambunctious applause cleared out the bowling alley (seriously). Richard reminded us of our obligation to help MaineShare raise funds, and he is proud to present the organization with our donation check. He also reminded us that Maine VFP is a founding member of the organization that since the late 1980’s now includes 44 non-profits. Peggy told us that Tom Sturtevant’s daughter, Suzanne, was thrilled to hear that we continue our support of an organization her dad was so involved in. And I have to announce that Richard’s year-long stint as the best bowler in the chapter was summarily ended by this very author, whose remarkable play resulted in the best score of the day. And I must tell you that I was a bit surprised when the clerk behind the counter took my bowling shoes and sprayed them with what must be some kind of bronzing element.
  • Dan Ellis presented the membership report: the numbers have not changed since the last report. We have 132 members (95 of whom are currently paid up) — 87 veteran members, 23 associate members, 10 honorary members, 1 lifetime member, and 11 donor members.
  • Regis Tremblay shared with us some more exciting news about his amazing film “The Ghosts of Jeju.” Next week it will be showing at a university in London, England during which time the presenters will have Regis interacting with the audience via Skype. On December 1st, a peace group in Nebraska will be showing the film. The showing last week at Waterville’s Railroad Square Theater garnered twenty viewers, with six coming from VFP. Although Regis was disappointed that no one from Colby College was there, Richard pointed out how engaged the audience was and how good Regis is as a representative of VFP. Regis told us that the film has been translated into seven languages (anyone want to help translate it into Russian — please contact Regis if you have those skills). We as a chapter are proud to have Regis Tremblay as one of our eminent spokespeople.
  • Doug provided some more information about our collaboration with the USM Elders group and Mothers Against Gun Violence. Fred Brancato, the coordinator of the Elders group, is in the process of setting up a meeting with Senator Angus King to discuss the eleven points they have developed and that we have adopted (see below). Fred is insistent that we meet with King himself rather than just his staff. Once a meeting date has been set up, representatives from our three groups will meet to discuss a strategy prior to the meeting with King. Having had a few conversations with Fred and meeting with his group, Doug is very confident that Fred’s experience as an organizer will win the day — this is going to happen. So far Peter Morgan and Doug have shown interest in being members of the VFP team in this initiative. If anyone else is interested, please contact Doug. To further illustrate the urgency of this action, Peter Woodruff reminded us of the terrible gun accident that occurred in Bath just last week.

    1. Background checks on all sales except between relatives. Includes strict penalties for cases where a check was not done and a violent crime was committed with the weapon”
    2. Ban military assault weapons (rifles and handguns) with a maximum allowed magazine capacity of 3. (President Obama and Senator King propose a max of 10
    3. Establish strict penalties for “straw purchasers” who pass the gun on to prohibited people and those who bring guns across state lines.
    5. Require future weapons to be smart with owner recognition systems and micro-stamped firing pins (enables gun to be traced by shell casing)
    6. Fund a national gun buy-back system for all guns, with higher monetary incentives for prohibited guns. (a key part of Australia’s gun reform law
    7. Establish a 10 year prohibition on gun ownership for anyone convicted of domestic violence or physical assault
    8. Remove the 2003 barrier to government publishing of gun crime data, such as type of weapon used and retail sources of guns used to commit crimes
    9. Fund the necessary improvements of our mental health system to include: a) mental health awareness through teacher training; b) 5000 more mental health professionals nationwide; c) coverage of mental health treatment under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008
    10. Remove current barriers under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that prevents states from sharing mental health data on potential gun purchasers
    11. Require all applicants for gun ownership to state the reason for wanting to own a gun, with self protection not one of them.

  • Smitty (Clarence Smith) informed us of the upcoming Maine Hospice Council Conference on November 20th at Togus VA hospital. He will represent VFP at the conference. Since Smitty is the reigning NATIONAL hospice volunteer of the year for his work with veterans, we are sure that people will be listening to him. The focus of the conference will be on degenerative diseases that veterans face at an alarming rate. In fact, these diseases are attacking veterans in their thirties and forties at a much higher rate than those in the non-veteran population face. Smitty’s opinion is that the stress of combat and multiple deployments, added to exposure to depleted uranium, are major factors in this terrible statistic. Peter Woodruff asked Smitty to find out more about aphasia. We are proud to have someone of Smitty’s stature representing us at this conference.
  • Richard reminded us that Tom Whitney will be representing us at this year’s School of America’s Watch. Doug informed us that this particular event brings in the second strongest contingent of national VFP members, second only to our annual conventions. Bill Leonard, who is a personal friend of Father Roy Bourgeois, reminded us of Roy’s amazing commitment to this action over the years.
  • Doug moved (and Peggy seconded) that we continue our support of Dan Ellis as our website guru and our list-serv manager by paying him $1,000 for his services. The motion was accepted unanimously. Robin’s last action as our chapter treasurer will be to write out a $1,000 check to Dan. Richard pointed out how the webpage brings our chapter’s activities to the attention of a wide audience. For example, Julia Lane contacted us about her father because she found out about us through the site.
  • Richard filled us in on the Julia Lane contact. Her ninety year old father, a WWII veteran, a sculptor and a veteran whose interests lean toward our statement of purpose, was in need of someone to listen to his life story. Richard, in his great wisdom, put Julia and her father in touch with Smitty. Smitty has met with him, not as an official hospice representative, but as one fellow veteran to another. Doug suggested that we might arrange a private showing of his work for VFP members to attend. Smitty will look into that possibility.
  • Richard reminded us that with the current switching of positions between Dan and Robin vis-a-vis the treasurer’s post causes something of a dilemma concerning the chapter board. Our solution — Robin will re-assume her position on the board and Dan will step down. That leaves our board looking like this: Bud’s term expires at the end of this year; Smitty’s expires in 2016; and Robin’s term continues through 2017.
  • Peggy informed us about her contact with Dot Blanchette, Tim’s wife. Tim is currently living in a Maine Veterans Home and is facing terminal pancreatic cancer. Dorothy would like us all to write something on the prayer flags that Tim has always liked. Peggy will provide us with the flags at the next meeting. Smitty, Peggy, and Doug have visited Tim at the home, and we all agree that Tim would love to see as many of us as possible. Smitty sends Tim’s best regards to all of us.
  • Richard conveyed the message that Jacqui Deveneaux of the Green Party would like our chapter to join in sponsoring the Climate Change rally in Boston on December 12th. No monetary request made. We agreed to sponsor the rally. Regis pointed out that there will be rallies worldwide; Doug pointed out that a number of statewide rallies are also taking place. Doug recommended once again (does he ever shut up?) that everyone read Naomi Klein’s book THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING. In fact, in a few weeks he will have nine copies back from a discussion he and Judy are leading in Farmington. Russ Christiansen of VFP initiated this whole process by purchasing these books. So if anyone wants to borrow a copy, please let him know.
  • Doug passed around a brochure on “Equine Journeys,” a free therapeutic camp run for veterans. Peggy took the brochure because she thinks that Pebble Street might be interested in the project.
  • Dan wanted to clarify how submitting material to the chapter list-serv works. Any member can post to the list-serve as long as the material is relevant to our mission. Dan, Doug, and Richard have the responsibility of monitoring the site. No one had any questions or objections to this arrangement although we are always open to suggestions.
  • Martha commented that there are five statewide agencies that deal with aging and help with home care. Doug mentioned that a woman at the elders meeting he attended in Darmiscotta provided information about free respite care for veterans that her group just received funding for. Robin was interested in the program for her father.
  • Doug passed out recent copies of the national VFP newsletter that he is editing on a temporary basis. In the newsletter is a section devoted to explaining the two sides of the recent debate over whether to accept USAID funds to help Vietnamese peasants deal with Agent Orange poisoning and unexploded ordnance. The case against it is made by Brian Willson; the case for accepting the funds is made by Chuck Searcy. Doug urged all members to read this section before casting their votes on the ballots now arriving from the national office. And he urged members to stay with VFP even if the vote goes against their viewpoint. Peter Morgan asked Doug to provide some information on the six candidates running for the five seats coming available on the national board. He said that he is supporting Tarak Kauff, Dan Shea and Mark Forman based on his personal knowledge of them and their work. He does not know much about the other three candidates, but he is inclined to support the two women running for office because each offers a perspective from a younger veteran’s experience. Of course all voting members (you have to be a dues-paying national member to vote) has access to biographical information on each candidate through the national website.
  • It was great to see Gerry Kamke back with us after a prolonged illness. Gerry is our resident songwriter extraordinaire, and he shared a recent song with us entitled “Can’t Quit Tryin'” with lyrics by him and music by his daughter’s friend Matt Kresge from Philadelphia. Gerry graciously informed us that the song is written for his brothers and sisters in VFP and any veteran who is suffering from illness. When pressed on the issue of a forthcoming CD, he replied that he needs a few more songs. So next time you see him, pressure him to keep on writing. He has a real gift.


The meeting adjourned at 8:30pm.