In 1961, I did the JFK 50 Mile Hike, mainly as a junior high athletic challenge. When I turned 61, I did a 61-mile hike, raising money for veterans’ issues, and peace and justice. At 70, it was the 70-mile beating weapons into windmills walk.
This year I’m taking it easy. On Nov. 11, I’m taking the 6 a.m. 755 bus from Golden Valley to the main post office downtown. I’ll walk 11 miles to the Minnesota State Capitol grounds, where a replica of the liberty bell resides near the Veterans Services Building.
The post office overlooks the site below, on the Mississippi, where veteran John Stevens got a farm in 1849 and built a little frame house. In that house, he and his wife, Helen, raised their children, organized the city of Minneapolis, and started the State Fair to teach Minnesota settlers how to grow food in the cold climate. Native American neighbors were frequent guests, and the little church they started got a bell from Buffalo, New York, inscribed “to The First Presbyterian Church of Minniopolis.”
I will get to the Capitol before 11 a.m., when the replica rings 11 times in remembrance of the 1918 Armistice by City of Bells.
City of Bells restores mainly church bells: many dormant, others melted down for weapons. You can learn of their mission at cityofbells.com. They have permission to ring the liberty bell on Memorial Day, July 4, Veterans/Armistice Day, and Jan. 1. Governor Tim Walz rang that bell on the 4th as a candidate, and said: “If the government isn’t going to take care of veterans, they shouldn’t be creating them.” He echoed the thread in my book, “SIXTY-ONE,” in which I argue an end to wars, and to arguing about veteran care, especially mental health and exposure to toxins.
Nov. 11 was called Armistice Day until 1954 when it was renamed Veterans Day. It was often said that the greatest tribute we could pay to those who gave their lives in war was to work fearlessly to keep others from making that great sacrifice. Today, celebrations generally include a 21-gun salute, but some 30 years ago Veterans for Peace (to which I belong) began again calling the day Armistice. Places of worship are encouraged to join in, ringing bells 11 times at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
If you can’t come Nov. 11 to the liberty bell at the Capitol, please encourage your place of worship to ring bells as part of the service nearest Nov. 11. Before the bells ring, read this statement: “The Armistice of 1918 ended the horrendous slaughter of the ‘war to end all wars.’”
When the Armistice was signed on Nov. 11, exuberant joy broke out worldwide. Bells rang 11 times at that 11th hour for years, and then the practice faded away. Now we ring them again at that sacred moment, remembering soldiers and civilians killed in all wars. Further, we resolve to work and pray for peace, until this assault on the will of the creator is over.
There are, of course, many ways to work for peace, but my favorite is to view the work of Iraq veteran, Captain Paul Chappell, at peaceliteracy.org. Lessons and ideas are free to download and use by anyone, individual families, schools, churches, businesses, all of us.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin for those forced to suffer the brunt of war.