Nov 19, 2013 Joe Genco Uncategorized
While men and women were honored on Veteran’s Day for their service to the United States, an event in Skaneateles highlighted how veterans and civilians alike can serve their country and promote peace in the world.
A six-person panel composed of people from around Central New York gave its thoughts on achieving peace through service at a Skaneateles Sunrise Rotary Club Peace Forum held Nov. 12 at Skaneateles High School.
Rotary club member Jim Lanning introduced the guests and introduced the theme of the evening: “Striving for peace in today’s world.” Lanning said the event was scheduled purposefully for the day after Veteran’s Day.
“The veterans and the service they have provided and the sacrifice that they have made is always striving for peace and peace must accompany justice,” he said.
The first speaker of the night was Liz Bush, who twice participated in Rotary International’s youth exchange program travelling to Spain and Thailand. Since then she had traveled to a variety of places around the world and shared wisdom about spreading good will to foreigners.
One important thing to do when traveling is to make an effort to learn key phrases in other languages to help break down cultural barriers and dispel negative stereotypes about the United States, Bush said.
“Even if you learn five basic phrases — basically hello, please, thank you, excuse me and I’m sorry — if you can get those phrases down in your target language then it’s amazing how differently people act around you and treat you,” she said.
Dr. Tom Bersani an ocuolplastic surgeon, an ophthalmologist specializing in corrective surgery to fix blindness, spoke about his volunteer work with the international organization Doctors Without Borders.
With the group Bersani has traveled to Hondouras and western Africa to health clinics where he has performed surgeries to correct blindness in impoverished areas. He will also be traveling to South Sudan next year on a trip coordinated by the Skaneateles-sponsored John Dau Foundation.
Bersani said that the humanitarian work of medical professionals is something that can help foster peace in unstable parts of the world.
“I think some of the revolutions that have occurred in Central American countries over the years have basically come down to people not having their basic needs and just being fed up. So North American medical teams going down there on a regular basis and putting some Band-Aids on some of their most severe social problems, probably does stabilize these countries,” he said.
Melissa Spicer, co-founder of Central New York based ClearPath for Veterans, said that helping veterans was a way to make a difference without leaving the Syracuse area.
“I was told by someone much smarter than me, that what we chose to do with our situation, is what makes us. So you can sit around and complain or you can make a difference right where you are,” Spicer said.
ClearPath is an organization that offers services to veterans including its well known Dogs2Vets program. Spicer said that when men and women leave the military they want to continue serving their country and her organization helps them do that.
“Healthy veterans do transform communities because of their service, they are always looking to serve,” she said.
John Mannion spoke about his experience in the Peace Corps, which he joined after graduating from college. The Peace Corps is an American organization that sends volunteers all over the world to help spread information on modern business, technology, agriculture and health practices.
Following two months of training Mannion was sent into the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador to help a number of small isolated communities. Though they did have electricity, there was no running water in the village where he lived, so one of the projects he undertook while there was to create a system to distribute clean water in containers as well as to help them develop sustainable agriculture.
By spending two and a half years doing good in Ecuador, Mannion said he was able to change peoples’ minds who thought that the U.S. is a nation that perpetuates war.
Though local author and army veteran Mel Rubenstein was unable to make it to the event due to poor driving conditions John Paddock, of Skaneateles, spoke in his place. Rubenstein is the author of “The Peacetime Draft,” a self-published book telling the stories of 18 local men who served in the military during the Cold War.
Paddock, himself a navy veteran, wrote the foreword to the book and spoke about always honoring men and women in the service for their sacrifice in the name of the U.S. and peace.
“In our country’s history events like Pearl Harbor and 9/11 brought out that patriotism in all Americans. Of course, we all hope that those kinds of events will not happen again, but patriotism should not be a part-time thing reserved only for those tragic times,” he said.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.