On October 8th, 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a proclamation changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. Within that proclamation he stated “…let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain . . . that . . . in order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in this common purpose.”

Yet we have not had one day of peace let alone an enduring one since that proclamation. Although the active violence of the Korean War had ended, the war remains today in a state of truce. Still to come were the conflicts in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Lebanon, Lybia, Somalia, Haiti, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iraq once again. Why is peace so illusive? Why does our Congressional delegation continue to support war? Funding it. Creating the weapons of mass destruction. When will it end? Why are the 252 million civilian deaths in the 20th and 21st centuries never really discussed? For that is the True Cost of War.

When thousands of civilians are mistakenly killed in US bombing raids in Iraq and Afghanistan it is not even counted by the US. In many cases it is denied that civilians casualties had even occurred. When admitted it is usually in the term “collateral damage” as if their lives were disposable, just another addition to the detritus of war.

Maine Veterans For Peace wanted to put a name to this term “collateral damage”. Our opportunity came when the Portland Downtown District in conjunction with other veterans groups began the Adopt A Flag program. American flags were to be put in place along Congress Street on Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Veterans Day. Civic groups were asked if they wanted to adopt a flag for $100 with a dedication posted on Portland Downtown District’s website. Maine Veterans For Peace attempted to take part in the program, sending in the following dedication: In memory of Wa’ad Ahmed, a 1 month old Iraqi male, killed by bombs dropped by U. S. Forces, in the village of Nakr al-Deeb, Iraq, on May 19th, 2004. It was accepted by the Downton District and the dedication was placed on their website September 2nd. By September 14th the dedication was removed from the website without explanation although we did know that other veteran’s organization took extreme and bitter exception to our dedication.

We intended no controversy nor did we imply criticism. Our intent was to simply put a name to that obscene term “collateral damage”.

The true cost of war is not only the American casualties, nor only the trillions of our dollars in cost. It is the women, children and non-combatants who die because of war. Because of this so-called “collateral damage” many a service person returns home in one piece physically yet psychologically disturbed by what he or she has seen or been a part of.

Now named, one month old Wa’ad is no longer “collateral damage”. He is now a casualty of war.

Maine Veterans For Peace remains committed to the withdrawal of our armed forces from Iraq now and to the full support of their needs when they return. We remain committed to the abolishment of all war. For it was in the reality of war that we found the meaning of peace.

It is in this spirit that the $100 returned to Maine Veterans For Peace from the Portland Downtown District is presented to Portland West for their use as they see fit, hopefully within a children’s program

(note: Donation was accepted by Victoria Mares Hershey for Portland West)