Nancy Meyer with the March for Peace Walkers. click the photo for a larger version.
Last Saturday I joined these three incredible Americans on part of their trek. Seven miles through downtown Omaha in the July heat just about killed me; I have no idea how they have managed to get this far.
I had a chance during the walk to talk with all three of the marchers, and the thing that struck me most about them was their tremendous humility. They are just three kids who decided to do a phenomenal thing with little to no support, simply because they felt they needed to do something about Iraq and Darfur and the environment. I was impressed with their awareness of world events and their amazing commitment to something larger than themselves.
Ashley Casale – college student from New York who organized the march by establishing a web site and a route. She welcomed anyone who wished to join her, but most never showed up at the starting point or dropped out right away. Ashley turned 19 during the march on June 17. She started the march with $100 of her own money in her pocket, and is currently on her second pair of shoes: a pair of backless Birkenstock sandals that some one bought for her.
Michael Israel – Very soft spoken 18-year-old who left his senior year of HS in Jackson, CA a couple weeks early in order to participate in the march from the beginning. He did graduate, but felt this march was well worth missing the ceremony and all the parties. He said he was looking for something he could do to really make a difference when he found Ashley’s website. He met her for the first time at the starting point in San Francisco just 10 minutes before they started walking on May 31.
During the Omaha leg, Michael talked a lot about how his mother inspired and encouraged him. He also said the family is divided politically with his older currently brother considering joining the military. He is very concerned about this because he has read too many reports of how poorly equipped the soldiers are. He also told me that his favorite part of the march has been how complete strangers in small towns come out to meet them and show their support.
Tom Chemlor – 19-year-old who read about Ashley and Michael in the paper Wednesday 7/11 and set out the very next day from Chicago to meet them in Lincoln driving an old car he wouldn’t trust to take him across town. Said he knew immediately that he had to join the march or forever regret not having done so. He’s a very friendly guy who joked with me about going up to the White House when they get to DC to ask Bush if he could take one of the twins out on a date.
Have I got your attention yet? This is not thousands of adults with a huge support network as in 1987; it is just 3 teenagers with a sincere mission and a long lonely road ahead of them. From what I could gather, they are basically traveling on a wing and a prayer. When you ask them to introduce themselves they say things like, "I’m Ashley Casale, and I’m just passing through." That’s it! They don’t seek the limelight or rant ‘n rave or ask for anything. They’re just letting their walking do the talking.
I’d like to encourage all of you to do just one thing to help support these marchers. It could be anything:
- Join them for any part of the march
- Link to their website from yours
- Arrange to transport their packs to the next location – even just 10 or 15 miles down a road helps!
- Stop along their route and cheer them on
- Provide food, shelter, etc. in any way you can
- Send them money – even $5 will help (donation page: http://www.marchforpeace.info/Donate.html)
- Help them get publicity in any form of media (even a church bulletin!)
- Attend or support the final week of action Sept 8-15 in Washington DC
- Call them (that’s Ashley’s cell phone on the website 845.264.3912) to wish them well
- Help the marchers get transportation back home when it’s all over
- Ask your church, club or organization to support in some way
- Forward this email to others who can help and spread the word
Let’s support their phenomenal effort. I want them to get more media attention and feel all the love, admiration and support they deserve. They are setting a truly unselfish example for their peers. We need more young people in the peace movement.
Check out the website above and that of one of their sponsors for more info about the route and how you can help. If you know anyone who lives along the route or can help in the slightest way, please encourage them to come out in support when they pass through town. Even just meeting them with a box of Popsicles is highly appreciated.
I told Ashley that Peace is a Team Effort: They simply need to stay healthy and keep walking, while the rest of us help them in any way we can.
Thanks for promoting peace with your support. No gesture is too small.
Cedar Bluffs, NE