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Veterans for Peace honor fallen

Local chapter advocates for an end to fighting

Paula Mendez, 15 (left), an ROTC student, was among those who attended the Veterans For Peace rally at Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park in Boston on Memorial Day.
Paula Mendez, 15 (left), an ROTC student, was among those who attended the Veterans For Peace rally at Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park in Boston on Memorial Day. (Dina Rudick/Globe Staff)

Heavy with the legacies of fallen soldiers, the carnations dropped swiftly into Boston Harbor.

Each one represented a Massachusetts man or woman who died fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan, and their names were spoken aloud over a sound system so no one would forget.

On Monday, the local chapter of Veterans for Peace was honoring the soldiers in the best way its members know how — by advocating for an end to war.

On a day when most ceremonies honoring soldiers who perished while fighting for the United States involve drums, parades, and 21-gun salutes, the peace activists’ commemoration was stunningly quiet.

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It was, organizers said, just as Memorial Day is supposed to be.

“Memorial Day is not a day to espouse militarism,” said Pat Scanlon, coordinator of the Smedley D. Butler Brigade of the Veterans for Peace. “Memorial Day is a day to remember.”

Veterans held white flags bearing the name of the peace organization under the image of a dove. The backs of their shirts said: “War is a racket. A few profit — the many pay.” Speakers read essays and poems about conflict for a crowd of about 50 in Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park.

A group of Iraqis was also there to express solidarity with the Veterans for Peace and to remember the family members and soldiers they lost to the war with America.

“We’re going through the same situation where we’re grieving the loss of loved ones back in Iraq and here in the US,” said Carlos Arredondo, a member of Veterans for Peace who lost one son to battle and another to suicide in the grief-wracked aftermath that sometimes follows casualties of war.

Arredondo gained international prominence as a hero of the Boston Marathon bombing, a race he had attended to hand out flags to soldiers who were running.

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Monday’s commemoration honored not only soldiers who died overseas, but also those who returned home suffering from stress disorders and battle wounds.

“We cannot truly honor these men and women until we burst the bubble of truth that remains hidden, until we shout the truth and hear the truth that most of these wars are enacted not to protect our freedom and our safety, but to put money into the profits of the military-industrial complex,” said Dan Perkins, a member of Veterans for Peace.

Poet Faye George recited a piece she wrote after visiting the Civil War museum in Chancellorsville, Va., describing the uniform of a Confederate soldier who died in the battle there and asking, “How many others fed the flowers? Across the woods and hills, white dogwood wears the wounds of May.”

Eric Wasileski, a Gulf War veteran, built off the aphorism: “Those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it.”

“We say, ‘The best way to remember the dead is to save the living,’ ” he added. “Honor the dead by ending war, honor the living by making peace.”


Zachary T. Sampson can be reached at zachary.sampson
@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZackSampson.