Presentation at Walk for Peace June 30
by Woody Coward
• I’m Woody Coward. I’m 94. In 1939, I joined the Canadian Army as a stretcher bearer. I became a professional soldier and one of Canada’s atomic program veterans. Thirty years later, I resigned my commission as a Lt-Col. About 30 years after that, I became a peace activist. I changed.
I am representing Veterans Against Nuclear Arms, otherwise known as VANA. I speak on behalf of David Laskey and Ed Livingstone, leaders of Veterans Against Nuclear Arms before we folded our tent a year or so ago. They stand with me here on this platform.
Today, we bring a message of change and greetings to all – and a special greeting to any veteran or member of Veterans Against Nuclear Arms who may be in this great gathering.
Our message is about change, as today we are celebrating Vancouver’s original Peace Walk in 1982. It is a special time for VANA for it was that Peace Walk in 1982 that spawned the birth of the VANA Vancouver Branch a year later.
Veterans Against Nuclear Arms participated as a group in Vancouver’s Remembrance Day ceremonies during the 80s and 90s. But the organizers of those events were more interested in glorifying war than promoting peace and refused to allow us to place a wreath on the cenotaph at Victory Square. By 2000, that had changed since then we were included in those events. The wreath on this stage is in commemoration of all the people of Vancouver who have worked for peace and who may not be with us today.
We sense change in the air. The world is finding ways of resolving differences, of settling disputes without resorting to arms. Apartheid no longer exists in South Africa. A man of colour is president of the USA. Twenty-seven nations of Europe that fought each other for centuries are joined together in a peaceful union. Common trade was the route they used to bind their union. Interdependence may now be the glue that keeps them united. The Arab Spring carried countries of the Middle East towards social and political change. The youth of the world is telling us loudly and clearly that we need to move towards a peaceful and just society, without resorting to arms. Although the globe still has many problems and more nuclear devices than it had in 1982, none have been used in war since 1945.
Yes, my friends, we believe that in balance this world is a better and safer place than it was 30-years-ago. We are convinced this change would not have happened without the constant pressure from those of our numbers who let the world know that peace was not just the way; it is the only way and we must keep up the pressure.
We often repeat John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields on Remembrance Day: “To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.”
And so we hold high our banner – let peace be our memorial. Thank you.
Veterans Against Nuclear Arms (VANA)
Wars have been repeated, over and over, in the name of freedom and peace. War does not bring lasting peace. We must find those roads to peace, with love and understanding.
We must awaken the power of hope for peace that is buried deep within the depths of each individual, as this power can transform and change even the most intractable reality.
When we can end the use of war, then all those who have died in war can rest in peace, as peace should be their memorial. Thank you.
- Dave Laskey, Veteran Against Nuclear Arms