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Memorial Day Weekend Exhibit at National Mall

Armistice Centennial Exhibit at Wolf Plaza

Armistice Centennial Exhibit at N.C. State Capitol

NEWS ADVISORY: Belltower Memorial on National Mall Memorial Day Weekend

NEWS ADVISORY: Belltower Memorial on National Mall Memorial Day Weekend – Visitors May Add Inscriptions and Ring Bell

Contact: Roger Ehrlich (919) 696-5995

This Memorial Day weekend on the National Mall, the public is invited to add inscriptions to a 24-ft-tall touring Memorial, the Swords to Plowshares Memorial Belltower.  For the past 5 years the Memorial has been a favorite of many visitors to the mall because anyone is free to add a silver memorial plaque (handmade from recycled cans) and ring the bell.  It is designed to memorialize not only the dead and wounded of one nation, but the effects of war on people of all nations. By allowing people to freely memorialize the impacts of war on everybody, the sponsors hope to help prevent suicide related to moral injury and future trauma from war.

The following 3′ 30″ intro video may be posted on News Media websites or excerpted for broadcast purposes. The Belltower will be raised in dramatic fashion on Saturday around noon, and be open to the public through 9 pm on Memorial Day.  On Memorial Day morning, Veterans For Peace will host a ceremony at the Belltower at 9 a.m.and then solemnly proceed by foot to the Vietnam Memorial to deliver open ‘Letters to the Vietnam Wall’ at 10:30 a.m.  Volunteers will be on hand to assist visitors in creating memorial plaques and to record interviews with those who wish to share their stories.  A new addition this year is a traveling color photo exhibit with interview excerpts from prior Belltower visitors that was made possible by a 2017 grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council.

The project was initiated by Veterans For Peace to mark the Centennial of WWI and semi-centennial of the Vietnam War. It is dedicated to ALL victims and veterans of war from ALL nations. It is an effort to bring back the original healing spirit of Memorial Day when orphans and widows placed flowers on both Union and Confederate graves in Arlington Cemetery.  The Belltower will be erected Saturday morning near Lincoln Memorial directly across Memorial bridge from Arlington. Belltower location

Visitors are free to ring the bell and add inscriptions to windblown silver memorial plaques – handmade from recycled aluminum cans – to bear witness to how they, or those close to them, have been affected by war. The inscriptions from previous installations are in many different languages and tell the toll of war not only in terms of death and physical injuries, but hidden wounds on all sides.

The Swords to Plowshares name is taken from the bronze door of a WWI Belltower in Raleigh NC that inspired it, with the Old Testament passage (Isaiah 2:4) which is taken as prophetic by Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others, about converting weaponry to peaceful purposes to prevent future wars.  November 11th, 2018, was the Centennial of the Armistice that was supposed to end “The War to End All Wars” when bells were rung around the world on “The Eleventh Hour.”

Wayne Hill, Australian Veteran of War in Vietnam

Some of my mates, about seven of my mates, never made it home with me. Since I arrived home, numerous members have committed suicide out of my unit. Close friends. And one of our five children passed away early, I’m told from Agent Orange. I was exposed to [Agent Orange] and it has affected four out of our five children.

Albert (Al) Hayes, Jr., Vietnam Veteran

My name is Albert Hayes. I was a staff sergeant in the Army. In 1969, I was in Vietnam with the 1st Air Calvary. We went out on helicopters and I’ll never forget the day in June of 1969. We got ambushed and most of my squad got wiped out. I got shot with a hole through my canteen and I’m very emotional right now because I’m still alive and they’re dead. I’m headed down to see the wall and I’m hoping I can set up pretty good once I get to it and see my buddies’ names on the wall.

How can we beat swords into plowshares?

I was drafted, like I said, to go in the military. I would do it all for my country again, but I hope if I ever have to go to war again or if anybody has to go to war, it’s because we’re defending the United States of America and not sticking our nose in other people’s business.

Robert Harris, Vietnam Veteran

While I serving my country, I was wounded a couple times, shrapnel which I’m still recovering from, Agent Orange, jungle rot that plagues my body now and causes a whole lot of problems for me to function as a normal person. But I’m thankful that I made it back and I pray for all the families that lost loved ones serving their country and I thank God for being here on this day. This is my statement: bless all military personnel and their families.

How can we beat swords into plowshares?

In making decisions to help maintain peace all over the world, we all have to be doing our share and let that be the last resort–is going to war which affects so many people and their families with a lasting effect that most military veterans cannot shake. And I’m one of those living now that–I never wanted any parts of being in the military, but I was drafted so I had no choice but to serve my country as they ordered me to do. But I found out that, from the effects of war, it lingers on and it never stops.

Reverend Shawna Foster, National Guard Veteran, Nuclear Biological Chemical Specialist

For Jacob David George: Death by Suicide

Jacob talked about how he was a poor farmer sent over to kill other poor farmers overseas. He was deployed three times and, when he came back, he decided that he was going to ride his bicycle and talk about the wars and the misconceptions of them until the end.

When I joined the military, I was 17 years old. I joined the Nebraska Army National Guard and I drilled with the Guard while I was still in high school, so I didn’t really know much about the military. I just believed my government. After I found out that the Bush administration lied about the fact that there were weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein had them, I felt that I could no longer follow that nation.

How can we beat swords into plowshares?

We spend over 1 trillion dollars. A lot of that is borrowed for a security budget that doesn’t really keep us any safer. We really need to be able to face these hard truths and then we can find other truths.

If we took that money and invested it into healthcare, that would create twice as many jobs. If we took that money and invested it into education, that would create three times as many jobs. We don’t need to make investments in the losing military industrial complex anymore. We can take this money and put it into programs, as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, into programs of social uplift.