Holding veterans in the Light

galen cropped comm13From Galen Hamann, Director of Friends Education
I wanted to give an update on what I have been doing and learning this fall to consider how we as a school can live our peace testimony through relationship with those impacted by war, military families and education. This includes doing research on Veterans for Peace http://www.veteransforpeace.org/. I’ve learned a lot about Armistice Day and the history of Veterans Day and gained some ideas for how we might recognize it.

There also is the national network of the non-militarization of youth (www.nnomy.org). Although these groups do not have chapters in Rhode Island, they are good resources for how to recognize Veterans Day.

I also met with a current student and his father, who has served for 20+ years in the Army National Guard and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2007. We talked about the climate of MB in relation to the peace testimony and explored ways we can build relationships between veterans and this community.

Last week, a new student group, Students Supporting Those Affected by War, had a bake sale to raise money for wounded warriors. They also have been collecting a list of names of those impacted by war in the U.S. On Thursday, we will read those names at the beginning of upper school Meeting for Worship and invite people to hold them in the Light.

This Monday, at MB’s JV football game, junior Adam R., a leader of this new student club, will invite people to pause for a moment of silence to hold in the Light all those affected by war.

What else can we as a school do in the future?

Many students in this new club have suggested ideas – perhaps organizing a Community Service Day site connected to veterans, considering an upper school assembly, or sharing veterans’ stories with the wider school community.

Upper school English teacher Abby Phyfe also is working on a trip to the memorials in Washington for her Literature of War class next year. This new TRIP was recently approved. We plan to support this by making connections to the Friends Peace testimony.

As a Friends school, Moses Brown School has a long history of activism, involvement and advocacy for peace in the world.  In fact, one alumnus, Rufus Jones (1863-1948), co-founded the American Friends Service Committee during the First World War, as a way for young conscientious objectors to serve without joining the military. At the war’s end, Rufus and others were instrumental in organizing the Quäkerspeisung, the large-scale feeding effort that saved millions in Germany from starvation. During the years leading up to World War II, Jones went to Germany as part of a Quaker delegation to plead for better treatment and emigration opportunities for Jewish people. In 1947, he represented the AFSC in Stockholm when the Quakers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

DSC01725More recently, Rob Wilson ’67 has worked as part of the Veterans’ Education Project to bring veterans’ stories to high school classrooms, including at MB. “It is gratifying to help these amazing men and women develop their stories, and to see them healing war’s emotional wounds through sharing with appreciative students,” Rob says. “I hope that VEP’s student and public audiences come away from our speakers’ stories with new understanding about war and its consequences and new empathy for veterans and military families. I hope they develop an eagerness to think critically about policies related to war and veterans’ issues and act on their conclusions, whatever they may be. The world would be a better place.”

As a Friends school, we have a responsibility to engage in relationship building, to have honest conversation about the ways in which war is impacting our communities, and to brainstorm how we work to live in a world without war and the militarization of society. This effort of engaging in diplomacy, of seeking to remove the causes of war, and efforts to end war is a way of honoring the sacrifice of veterans so that no one will have to be in harm’s way again. As alumni like Rob and Rufus, teachers like Abby Phyfe and Jules Burrows, and students like Rosemary, Adam, and Tyler work toward healing the wounds of war, I look forward to hearing more ideas from our community as to how we may do this. Please email me at ghamann@mosesbrown.org to share your thoughts.

Hear from students at MB today on their recent efforts:

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