Three “Friends of Francis” arrested at STRATCOM

photo by Mauro Heck

Over 150 people, most Catholic religious sisters and calling themselves “Friends of Francis”, converged at the main gate of Offutt Air Force Base, home of STRATCOM, on Sunday, October 2 to pray and act for peace.  Coming from numerous Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota cities, the group was commemorating the 25th anniversary of the October 4, 1986 Ecumenical Peace Gathering in Assisi and the annual feast of the man of peace, Francis of Assisi, as well as marking the tragic 10th anniversary of the beginning of the U.S. war with Afghanistan on October 6.

The gathering included prayers, singing and dancing. Martha Hennessy, the granddaughter of Dorothy Day – the founder of the Catholic Worker – was one of the speakers. At the end of the service the group moved onto the drive leading to the main gate of Offutt Air Force Base. Traffic was blocked while a statement was read, and three people crossed the property line and were immediately detained by base security. (See text of statement below)

The three line crossers were:

Marilyn Ryan,, a retired school teacher from Omaha, NE

Gilbert Landolt,, a disabled Vietnam veteran, President of
the Des Moines Veterans for Peace chapter and Des Moines Catholic Worker

Marian Klostermann OSF, , a Franciscan Sister from Dubuque, a long time peace and justice activist and teacher of nonviolence to the imprisoned.

This public prayer and action for peace was initiated by the Sisters of St. Francis of Dubuque, Iowa, who invite the public to join in protesting American militarism; the warfare in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Libya; nuclear weapons, whose control center is at STRATCOM; and defense spending at the expense of persons who are poor.

October 2, 2011
Statement at STRATCOM by ‘line crossers”:
Marilyn Ryan, Gilbert Landolt, Marian Klostermann, OSF

“May the Lord give you Peace!” With this greeting left to us by St. Francis, we greet you, Commander Robert Kehler and all who are employed at STRATCOM.  We say to all of you: May the Lord give you Peace!

As Franciscans, Veterans for Peace, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Catholic Peace  Ministry, Dubuque Peace and Justice, Catholic Workers, campus ministry organizations, parents, teachers, Midwesterners of all callings, we have traveled here today,  marking
the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the U.S. war with Afghanistan. We come here praying and protesting American militarism: the warfare in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Libya; protesting nuclear weapons, whose control center is here at STRATCOM; and protesting defense spending at the expense of persons who are poor.

We learned 10 years ago that 5,000 nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal could not and did not protect us from the attack on our economic center in New York and on our military and political center in Washington, D.C.  Our weapons were unable to defend our cities.

The nonviolent Jesus also loved the city of Jerusalem and wept over it, saying: “If this day you only knew the things that make for peace.” Today we believe that Jesus weeps over STRATCOM and is saying again: “If this day you only knew the things that make for peace.”

Is it the nuclear arsenal controlled here that makes for peace?

Is it the 737 U.S. military bases around the world that make for peace?

Is it the building of 3 new nuclear weapons plants in the U.S. that makes for peace?

For every one dollar the U.S. spends on programs that alleviate poverty we spend $36 million on the military.  Does that make for peace?

Three of us stand here before you today to say “NO.”

We have the witness of a disabled member of Veterans for Peace, Gilbert Landolt,  who is also representing his deceased father, a WWII POW veteran and a deceased brother, a Vietnam combat-war veteran. They have experienced the hopelessness of wars. The Veterans for Peace organization’s mission includes the abolishment of all nuclear

“The true cost of war is hidden.  It includes homelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the high suicide rate of returning veterans.   The government has not delivered on the care promised to veterans and their families.   War takes a disastrous toll on family life, including divorce, domestic abuse, and family disintegration.  I am here to say no to all of that.”

We also have the witness of Marilyn Ryan, a retired educator and principal, whose life has been dedicated to teaching the young and forming a new generation of peace-loving citizens.

“I want to stand up for what I believe in.  We come to STRATCOM to say that war, which is becoming the norm, is not the answer and that is not OK!   We have become immune to the suffering that results from war.  It is not right to remain silent about that.”

We have the witness of a Franciscan sister, Marian Klostermann, who has been actively working for peace as a companion to the poor in rural Iowa and in a Catholic Worker house.   For 17 years she has been doing nonviolence trainings in prisons.

“As a Franciscan I am committed to being an instrument of peace.   I believe that war is insanity.  To remain silent about it is to give my consent.  So I come here today to say publicly that the preparation for war happening here at STRATCOM is a futile waste.  It squanders the resources that belong to the most vulnerable among us.  Today as we celebrate the birthday of Mahatmas Gandhi I know that nonviolent resistance changed the country of India.  It can change ours.  It is still a possibility.  At one time St. Francis of Assisi thought that knighthood and fighting to defend his city were a noble cause.  The experience of war was his conversion and taught him that only the peace that comes from God’s love can truly transform.  By the time of his death, Assisi had become a city of peace and the site where 25 years ago today Pope John Paul II first gathered leaders of the world’s religion to pray for and commit themselves to peace.”

We come here today because the wisdom of veterans and our own is not heard by our Congressional representatives and the administration. Have any of them known combat, hunger, homelessness, unemployment, lack of health insurance, and the many other faces of poverty?

We come to STRATCOM, the center of our military might, to protest the trillions of dollars in military expenditures, enlisting the brightest of our young graduates, to exploit our natural resources for destructive purposes.   The result is more poverty and destitution in the richest nation in the world.  We call this INSANITY!

We cross this line today because our words and the words of so many others have not been enough.   We proclaim with our bodies and with our actions a strong no to war, a strong yes to peace and nonviolence.