CEDAR RAPIDS — A white pole — adorned in the word “Peace” written in more than 20 different languages — has been planted near the Park View Pavillion in Jones Park.
The peace pole was erected earlier this week by members of Veterans for Peace’s Cedar Rapids Chapter 169 organization and is meant to get people thinking about their community and neighbors, chapter coordinator Joe Aossey said.
“We get this whole barrage these days about guns and the enemy and terrorists, our society is just filled with this malice,” Aossey said Friday.
“The peace pole is a symbol about thinking about peace, about thinking about the commonwealth, thinking about things that we share instead of divisive things.”
On Saturday morning, local elected officials, advocates and residents will meet at the peace pole for a Get Out the Vote Picnic to commemorate the symbol, which — in addition to the multilingual representation of peace — bears the names of veterans Sonia Kendrick Stover and Joshua Casteel.
Stover died in December when she was 40 years old. She was a Kennedy High School graduate and spent three years in the U.S. Army and another eight with the National Guard, including a tour in Afghanistan.
Deeply impacted by her time overseas, Stover in 2011 founded Linn County not-for-profit Feed Iowa First.
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Casteel died in 2012 from lung cancer. His family has alleged the illness was tied to toxins he breathed for six months while sleeping near an open-air burn pit at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.
“Both Sonia and Joshua were victims of this militarism that we live in. The war on everything has come back to eat us alive,” Aossey said.
The event will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday with music and a meal. A program will begin at noon with comments by Mistress of Ceremonies and District 33 State Representative Kirsten Running-Marquardt, D-Cedar Rapids.
Several local elected officials will speak, including Sen. Rob Hogg, Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart, and District 35 State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines.
The event is co-sponsored by Chapter 169, Veterans for Peace’s Iowa City Chapter 161, advocacy group Indivisible and climate change movement organization 350.org.
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If you go
l What: Get Out the Vote Picnic
l When: A meal and music at 11 a.m. The program will begin at noon.
l Where: Jones Park Pavillion in Jones Park, near Bowling Street and 29th Avenue SW, Cedar Rapids