Vets for Peace Chapter 14, Gainesville, Florida
Veterans for Peace members believe that peace-making and hope for an end to war, violence and injustice begin in our community, our homes and our schools. Through the Peace Poetry Contest, we hope to stimulate discussion and critical thinking on tough subjects like war, bullying, racism, injustice, hate, environmental harm and inequality. By addressing these issues, we can begin to make them right.
That is why we invite all local k-12 students to participate in our Peace Poetry Contest every year; a peaceful possibility lies in the younger generations of today who will be leading, transforming and inspiring the world of tomorrow.
A panel of poetry experts plus members of Vets for Peace judge the poems based on the poets’ message and subject matter, as well as their use of language. The winners are published in the 2017 Peace Poetry Book and asked to recite their poems at the public Peace Poetry Reading in May at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Gainesville. Winners also receive gift certificates to a local bookstore and a booklet with their poems.
Veterans for Peace created the Peace Scholarship to give financial support to students who are planning careers in pursuit of a world of social justice and equity. University of Florida student Mariana Castro, a community activist and president of UF CHISPAS, was a recipient of one of the 2016 Peace Scholarships. In explaining the impact of the scholarship, Ms. Castro notes, “To me, receiving the Veterans for Peace Scholarship meant that there are people in our community who truly believe in helping change and shape our society for the betterment of all. There are not many scholarships such as the VFP Peace Scholarship because work for social justice is often overlooked in our world.”
Peace Scholarship applicants must be high school seniors planning on a higher education or a college student or adult enrolled in an accredited institution of higher learning who needs financial assistance. They must fill out the application and are asked to provide a brief autobiographical statement and evidence of leadership and/or personal initiative in activities in an organization (including volunteer or paid work) relating to peace and social justice, conflict resolution and/or nonviolent social change. Applicants also need to provide two letters of recommendation.
The Memorial Day display has been held on Memorial Day Weekend since 2007. The display located on 8th Avenue is a solemn memorial for those killed and injured in the Iraq and Afghan wars. US soldiers are memorialized with a tombstone listing their name, age, service and unit, home state, and date of death. The tombstones are arranged in order of date of death with markers for each year and for major events in the history of each war. Civilian deaths, the cost of war to veterans and their families, children in war zones and the costs to US taxpayer sand our society are also presented to the public in a separate display. Over a hundred volunteers gather starting Friday night and ending Monday evening of Memorial Day weekend to assemble, guard and finally take down the tombstones that line the Memorial Mile. In 2017, there were 6893 tombstones. The public participates by visiting their loved ones and leaving touching memorials to lives lost.
Winter Solstice Concert
This concert is Vets for Peace’s end of the year peace and justice community celebration. It is held on a Saturday night as close to the actual solstice as possible and provides Music and Cheer for the shortest days of the year! The music is provided by a core group of musicians, many of whom are veterans and who donate the concert proceeds to Vets for Peace Chapter 14. Bill Hutchinson is the emcee and lead musician for this event and is one of several musicians who were members of the original Vietnam Veterans Against the War who resisted the Vietnam War. The concert is Vets for Peace’s main fundraiser of the year. Much of the funds go to local endeavors such as the Penrod Award, the Civic Media Center and the Iguana. In addition, VFP Chapter 14 supports select national causes and the national chapter of Vets for Peace. We also fund our other major events through the year with proceeds from the Winter Solstice Concert.