MINUTES FROM SEPTEMBER 29TH 2016
TOM STURTEVANT CHAPTER MEETING
PRESENT: David Larsen, Peggy Akers, Clarence Smith, Robin Spencer, Bob Funke (from the Smedleys), Jerry Kamke, John Morris, Leroy Lowell, Peter Morgan, Peter Woodruff, Bob Dale, Martha Morrison, Dan Ellis, Richard Clement, Rita Clement, Bob Talbot, Regis Tremblay, Julie Maas Gerald, John Gerald, Simon (guest from Gun Control Lobby), and Doug Rawlings
At 6:15, at Dan Ellis’s bequest, two dozen of us drove over to Hersch Sternlieb’s house to present him with a commemorative certificate and a signed copy of LETTERS TO THE WALL as a way of thanking him and acknowledging his many years of contributions to our chapter.
The regular meeting began with Dan Ellis reading a poem written by Zeina Azzam that he heard her read at Gary Lawless’s GULF OF MAINE BOOKS. At first she was reluctant to give him permission to read her poetry, but after he showed her our website and she got to know us, she agreed to let him present her poetry to us. Ms Azzam is the Executive Director of the Jerusalem/Palestine Fund whose parents are Palestinian refugees. Dan read the very powerful poem “I Am Not That Mother” — ten stanzas of amazing witness. After the poem, Peter Woodruff led us in thanking her and stating our collective belief that her words are “touching and heartfelt.”
Smitty gave us the sad news that Al Norton has died at the age of 81.
Doug read a couple paragraphs from Dr. Betsy Watson’s letter from the collection LETTERS TO THE WALL.
The Secretary’s Report from the August meeting was accepted as written.
Dan Ellis presented his Treasurer’s Report — as of September 29th, we have a balance of $4995.06. This amount does not reflect finances from the Common Ground Fair ( we received a total of $530 from donations, which after expenses, netted us $373.75). Dan reported a $100 donation from the estate of Lt.Col. Patrick Whelan.
STANDING COMMITTEE REPORTS:
1). MaineShare — Richard continued the tradition of Tom Sturtevant by taking care of the MaineShare tables, etc at the Common Ground Fair. They were very thankful for that, and we thank Richard for maintaining a strong relationship with our MaineShare compadres.
2). Membership — Dan reported that we have 133 members, of which 77 are currently paid up with their dues. He is sending out a letter on Monday, October 3rd, to thirty or so people whom he has not heard from recently, asking if they want to be dropped from our membership rolls.
3). Education/Outreach/Media — Regis reported on his upcoming journey to Russia (he left on Saturday, October 1) [update from Regis’ facebook post:
Trip aborted. Checking in at Aeroflot at JFK, turns out my visa had a start date of October 11th. The application was for October 1, so someone at the consulate or servicing agency made an error. Rebooking cost an extra $294, plus $178 to return to Maine after a ten hour wait at JFK for the return.
Plus I lost the flight from Moscow to Crimea. To make matters worse, when I got back to Portland, my main bag had been torn wide open. Didn’t lose anything. They gave me a flight voucher. Small consolation.
I rebooked the flight for October 11 and will return to the States on November 1.
He told us that he has raised $8,000 in small donations as well as support from “regular” Russian people who are offering him places to stay, connections, etc when he arrives in their country. During the twenty plus days he is there he will be interviewing workers, government employees and students. A woman in Crimea, who has been a long time activist, will be connecting Regis with people from Kiev; he will also be showing his film “Ghosts of Jeju.” After time in Moscow and Kiev, he will be going to Yalta and then to St. Petersburg, where he will meet with members of an international peace organization. He also been invited to speak on RT television. He will return to us on October 22nd. He will then put together a short film of his Russian interviews for a special screening in Brunswick before putting the final touches on his Magnum Opus “Thirty Seconds to Midnight.” We wish him safe travels.
Our guest, Simon, then spoke briefly about the Gun Ownership Referendum #3 coming up for a vote this November. Since most of us were at the table when he explained his work at our last chapter meeting, he only took time to pass out buttons, lawn signs, and fact sheets. He explained again that the referendum is to promote a bill that will require all gun sales in Maine to be subject to background checks, much like those purchased at Cabella’s and Bean’s. His group estimates that up to 40% of all sales in our state are sold through private sales loopholes that dodge the background check requirement. They want to close those loopholes. He reported that their phone banks are going well, with the latest polling showing that 60% of state voters are in support of this referendum. Martha suggested that he contact the Elders group. Dan has been staffing the phone banks.
ONGOING AND UPDATED EVENTS AND ACTIONS
1). The Maine Peace Walk is looking good (October 11-26). Dan reported that all the information you need to know is posted on our website. He will continue to report daily on the progress of the walk each day via the website. Regis reported that the Coastal Journal just published a good interview with Bruce Gagnon, and that Bruce reported that the walk has attracted three times as many people committed to walking the whole way as have done so in the past. Dan again informed people that they can connect with the walk at any point — a van is available to shuttle people back and forth. Regis informed us that the walk sweatshirts are beautiful.
2). Doug reported that an updated edition of LETTERS TO THE WALL is now available. It contains an author’s index as well as an index of names referenced on The Wall. To date 226 copies have been sold. We are offering this book at $12/copy now — a 30% discount– to help raise funds that will help pay the travel expenses of people going to DC this coming Memorial Day (we will only make $3.00/ copy). The book is available through our Full Disclosure website
— vietnamfulldisclosure.org — and will soon be available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Our chapter has purchased 24 copies of the original edition (now a collector’s item), which we will sell at $10.00 a copy. Contact Richard if you want a copy. We plan on putting copies into school libraries and town halls around the state.
3). Richard reported that Frank Donnelly is still looking for people to accompany him to the SOA watch in Nogales, Arizona October 7th to the 10th. The SOA action grabs the second largest contingent of national VFP members each year. If you’re interested in joining Frank, contact Doug at email@example.com.
1). Nicole wrote a sweet letter to Richard explaining why she cannot continue as our chapter’s secretary — family demands, job demands, etc. We will miss her. Doug continues on as acting secretary until some brilliant, beautiful, athletically gifted member wrests it from his cold, cold hands.
2). The aforementioned donation came from Rick and Carole Whelan, whose son Patrick passed away. Again, we send our thoughts and commiserations to them.
3). Peggy reported that Mary Sturtevant is now in Maine Med., where she is doing great. Mary sends much love and good memories our way. Peggy pinned a VFP button on her, and she said:” Now Tom’s here too.” We signed a card for her. And we send her best wishes and much love back at her. Thanks to Peggy for maintaining this contact.
4). Doug reported on a VFP Zinn grant that he is writing on behalf of our counter-recruitment efforts. He, Ginnie Schneider from War Tax Resistance, and Lisa Savage are strategizing to get back into schools as Tom Sturtevant used to do. One way is to provide schools with good material — THE LETTERS TO THE WALL book and a new eighteen month Rob Shetterly peace calendar. The Zinn grant request is for $500 to help support the printing and distribution of the Shetterly calendar (we plan to print 250 calendars for free distribution to schools and some for sale). Doug requested a matching $500 donation from our chapter to help us get to our $2500 goal by March. Regis moved that the chapter do so, Peggy seconded the motion. It passed unanimously. Doug thanks everyone for their support. He will submit the grant this coming week and will keep the chapter informed of its progress.
5). WTR Resource Center — Doug reported that he, Ginnie, and Lisa hold monthly conference calls to continue strategizing on counter-recruitment access to schools. They have decided to work for a late Spring conference aimed at school teachers to help advance the dialogue. In the meantime, Ginnie is working on getting contacts established, and Lisa is developing material to get the word out. Doug will staff a table at the November conference for Maine Social Studies teachers that will feature VFP material and counter-recruitment material from Ginnie and Lisa.
6). A vigil will be held October 1st at BIW as part of International Space Week.
7). Activists will gather on October 5th in Portland to protest Angus King’s quest to open the Arctic Ocean up to even more oil exploration.
8). Peggy asked about our plans for Veterans Day this year.she recommended that we do as we have done the last few years — gather at the parade’s end in Monument Square with our flags, banners, and brochures. We will discuss this in more detail at our next Chapter meeting.
VFP IN ACTION
1). Richard reported on yet another successful Common Ground Fair experience for our chapter. As reflected in the budget discussion, we got over $500 in donations over the three day period our tables were there. Again, the button machine won the day — as Richard said, the tables were bracketed by the button machine on one end and Rob Shetterly postcards on the other, with VFP literature and buttons, etc placed in between. Richard was enthusiastic about the conversations that took place (some examples: a 12 year old boy insisting that he pay for a copy of ADDICTED TO WAR out of his own “fair” money despite Richard’s attempt to give him the book; Dan and John talked about conversations with people from other countries who passed by and lamented about how our country has become so militarized).
John also mentioned an encounter he had with Mario Pascarelli, from the Equine Assisted Wellness for Veterans Project, that impressed him greatly. Mario is looking for veterans to benefit from his program (free of charge) — you can contact him at 1-207-319-5815 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to their website at BullRingBelgiums.com.
Peggy brought up a concern she had about the table next to us. It was staffed as it has been in the past by a veterans group looking to fund a home for homeless veterans (they requested a table next to us). Richard, Rita, and Dan shared her concern — they were using GI Joe dolls to promote a message of “support our troops” that ignores the real consequences of war. Richard said that Saturday was the worst day as they were more active in front of their table; Rita pointed out that one of them was wearing a large knife and that one mother told her little girl (who was making a button) to return a GI Joe doll that was foisted on to her by one of the table’s staffers. Peggy suggested that we request a different site for our table — at the other end of the tent closer to like-minded folks. Smitty suggested that we contact Gary and Beth Lawless, who are responsible for monitoring the tent, about our concerns.
Dan shared our great gratitude for Richard and Rita’s tireless work on this event. Smitty pointed out that our ideal number of four members staffing the table at all times fell far short in reality. Oftentimes only one or two people were there (including such stalwarts as Dud and Jean Hendrick, John Morris, Dan Ellis, Smitty, Rita and Richard, Peggy, and who else?). We need more people next year.
Bob Funke, from the Smedleys Chapter in Boston, shared some insights with us — he spoke of how the Smedleys have been denied access to Boston’s parades, but they still situate themselves by the reviewing stand to make their presence known. He told us of staffing a table one day when a local troop of Brownies appeared; by the time they were done talking to Bob, forty of them left wearing VFP buttons. As Richard says, we are not concerned about making money here — so passing out buttons and material for free is perfectly fine. The Smedleys share that philosophy.
Richard met Russel Wray’s father at the fair. Again, much thanks to Richard for organizing, staffing, and reporting on this very valuable event (as he emphasized, we are not always preaching to the choir here, so the work is doubly important).
2). Doug reported that no travel expense requests were made of us for the recent TriCounty Veterans conference held in Farmington.
3). Jerry reported that he had recently spent some time at the Maine Veterans Rehabilitation Home in Augusta, where he wore his VFP regalia with pride. We all wished him well on his journey of recovery.
4). John Morris reported on the recent developments of the Zumwalt 12 trial. Many of the twelve and their lawyers attended a meeting with a judge on September 7th in Bath. After realizing that there were twelve people who would be testifying, the judge moved the hearing to later in the day. The judge blasted the assistant district attorney for the stupidity of bringing this to trial. John sensed that the judge was definitely moving toward dismissing charges to avoid a trial (the Twelve want this to go to trial for the obvious publicity blowback). The whole thing might be dismissed at the November 22nd jury selection session. Note: There will be three Zumwalts built at a cost of $7 billion each. All new bridges, roadways, hospitals, schools, etc etc will be considered after their launch. Until then, take a hike…..
5). Peter Morgan attended a recent Coast Guard reunion where he pushed VFP material. He also reported that he is approaching the national VFP folks to support a Coast Guard Foundation at Cape May that recognizes enlisted fatalities.
THE MEETING ENDED AT 8:57pm
NEXT MEETING IN AUGUSTA ON OCTOBER 27th at 7:00 pm (probably at the UMA Holocaust Center facility).
Veterans For Peace
Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it. — Bertolt Brecht
I refuse to live in a country like this, and I’m not leaving. — Michael Moore
American politics is the entertainment wing of the military industrial complex — Frank Zappa
Common sense: the insight of mediocrity. — Theodore Roethke