Stand Tall in Your Child’s Eyes: Speak Out For Peace

By Rivera Sun, World BEYOND War, June 9, 2024

A father stands tall in their child’s eyes. Mine towered. He was a 6’6”, red-headed giant of a man, a farmer who loved rock ‘n roll and corny jokes. He taught me to stand up for the underdogs, fight the good fight, and stick it to the Man.

He also taught me to speak out for peace.

My father was a conscientious objector and an anti-war organizer during the Vietnam War. In his 20s, he blockaded naval maneuvers off the coast of Maine and helped drafted young men get to Canada. His life inspires my own peace activism. Because of his example, I have the courage to stand up for peace and take risks to oppose war. He showed me that a life of courage and service can be found in stopping war, not fighting in it. Today, I know that by raising my voice for peace, I make my father proud.

Fathers who speak out against war come from many walks of life. Veterans, active-duty military, peace activists, refugees from war zones, civilians who lived through its horrors. When they speak truthfully about their experiences, they raise children who know the value of peace. In the circle of PeaceVoice writers I work with, many of us had a story about how our father’s example led us to lift our pens for peace today.

Kary Love, a lawyer who defends anti-nuke activists, spoke about the veterans in his family: My father-in-law, Tom, was an island hopper combat vet in WWII in the Pacific (he did “D-Days” every couple of weeks). Bart was my father, a combat vet in Korea. Both were decorated combat vets. Bart did not know I used to sit on the stairs at night in our small home and listen to him talk to guys who showed up to talk to ‘Sarge’ – mostly about their problems with booze and domestic turmoil and what I recognized later was their PTSD from going to hell. So, I knew more than he thought I knew. To truly honor the ‘memory’ of their sacrifice demands we honestly confront that war is hell. Both Tom and Bart were combat vets, not desk jockeys or rear echelon commanders. Neither spoke of the hell they lived through, preferring to protect their kids from its degenerate reality. But Bart threw all his medals in the sea while sailing back from Korea saying, “I never want anything to do with that again.”

The horror of war is a powerful recruiter for the peace movement. Editor Tom Hastings shared how his father went from Navy sailor to peace accomplice.

My Dad and his buddy George joined the Navy as soon as they graduated from high school during World War II. They spent it in the Philippines ‘for the duration’ plus a year. They both came back hating war. As a boy I heard no approval of the ‘Indochina’ war, just scoffing at the elaborate justifications such as the ‘domino theory’. Amidst the Vietnam War, my Dad and I became activists at the same time. He made a peace sign on a piece of canvas and flew it where he had formerly flown the American flag, much to the irritation of the neighbors. He made it easy for me to register as a Conscientious Objector, kept supporting me in that, and even drove the getaway car from one of my nuclear weapons disarmament Plowshares resistance actions. (To be clear, when my Dad drove the getaway car, it was to get the car away, not me or my resistance partner. We turned ourselves in, but my Dad — at age 70 –drove the car to safety.) Thanks, Dad. I miss you.

Fathers who actively participate in peace movements model how men can embody the spirit of protection, defense, sacrifice and service by working for peace. Labor and democracy writer Andrew Moss’ father was a powerful role model in this.

Andrew Moss writes, My dad modeled for me the possibility of making profound changes mid-life, even beyond. After serving in North Africa in World War II, he worked in various retail and construction jobs to support our family in the 50’s and 60’s. Then, as the Vietnam War raged, something spurred him to take the position of business manager with Another Mother for Peace, a peace advocacy organization known for their logo, War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things. My dad loved that job, and when the war ended a few years later, he felt confident to take on a new position as manager of a sheltered workshop for adults with developmental disabilities. Though his health permitted him only a few years in that latter position, he showed me how later life could hold possibilities for deeply gratifying work in peace and human services.

Our culture often lauds military men for their sacrifice and service. But numerous professions and avocations show how protection, defense of human life, and service can be found elsewhere. Fathers who dedicate themselves to nonviolent and life-affirming work for the wellbeing of others are seen as heroes in their own right.

Wim Laven, a professor of conflict studies, shared this: The greatest compliment I know is being told, ‘you remind me of your father,’ or ‘your father would be proud.’ He was a doctor, but he was also an ambassador of happiness. I benefitted from a childhood where he taught by example. I went with him to homeless shelters, where I saw him help those who needed it the most. He treated everyone with dignity because it was the right thing to do. He passed along the wisdom that the purpose in life is not to do great things, but to do small things with great love. This commitment has accompanied me to work in conflicts and humanitarian disasters on four continents. It all started at home and I am endlessly grateful for the lessons on service to others.

On this Father’s Day, tell the stories of your father’s opposition to war and longing for peace. Our children need to hear them. From Ukraine to Gaza to the Democratic Republic of Congo and beyond, wars are hell on earth. Countless children and fathers are suffering in them.

If we want our children to live in a more peaceful world, we need these stories. A father serves as a role model for the next generation who will bring humanity one step closer to ending war.

Stand tall in your child’s eyes. Speak out for peace.


Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, has written numerous booksincluding The Dandelion Insurrection and the award-winning Ari Ara Series. She is the editor of Nonviolence NewsProgram Coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence, and a nationwide trainer in strategy for nonviolent campaigns.

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