Fourteen years ago, a small-but-mighty group from Sandy decided there was a need to promote peace. In an effort to urge all to give peace a chance, the group stood at the intersection of 362nd Avenue and Highway 26 in Sandy for two hours the first Friday of every month with signs and waved at passersby.
"The Sandy Peace Vigil was composed of local people who wanted to show our disapproval of endless war and support of peaceful solutions to conflicts," said Mary Anderson, long-time Sandy Peace Vigil coordinator. "Snow, rain or shine, cold or hot, we've been coming out since Feb. 2, 2007. We were all wanting to be a peaceful presence and remind people that there are soldier's out there in harm's way."
Now, with U.S. troops scheduled to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by September, these stalwart demonstrators have optimistically disbanded their group, hosting one last vigil on May 28.
"The weather was beautiful, and we had 16 peace-loving participants, and lots of support from passing cars and quite a few big rigs, (giving) honks, waves, peace signs and general aloha," Anderson recounted.
Over the years, the group was met with a range of reactions, including love, support, confusion and disdain.
For the first two years, Anderson recalled, they has "megaphone guy," a local pastor whose name she didn't know. He would come out and stand on the opposite corner of the street and yell at the demonstrators, sometimes saying things like "God Bless President George Bush" or expressing anti-abortion sentiments.
Fortunately, though there were a few occasions where ill-intentioned folks would hurl water bottles or eggs out of car windows at the vigil, members were never physically injured.
"When President Obama was elected, a lot of people were surprised we were still out there," Anderson explained. "But we never thought of ourselves as partisan, and the military industrial complex was still very active. We still have to show that (violence) is not the way to end conflict."
For a few years, the group of now mostly retirees between the ages of 60-90, was joined by a small band of Sandy High students, and they have always had an assortment of veterans for peace join the effort as well.
While their World War II veteran for peace, Will Pool, has since moved away and passed away, two long-time participants of the vigil are Vietnam veterans from Sandy.
"Will came out many Fridays (with his wife Mabel) and participated in several other peace efforts," Anderson said. "Some weeks, maybe there'd be only four to seven of us, but we were out every week. Some of the times the weather was so treacherous it was dangerous to be out, but there was always a physical presence on that corner."
The one exception was during the pandemic. Still, in 2020 while demonstrators didn't gather in-person, they maintained a virtual spirit of peace via email.
Though the vigil group found having a physical presence important to put peace in the forefront of neighbors' minds for years, Anderson explained that folks can also promote peace just by "being a peaceful presence wherever you go, in whatever you do."
"There are always opportunities out there," she added. "There are all kinds of iterations of peace."
Moving forward, individual participants plan to continue their own efforts, such as communicating with local and federal representatives to make their concerns and needs known and Anderson plans to continue the weekly emails with "tidbits related to peace."
When asked if the vigil group may reestablish, Anderson said: "It may have to be the next generation."
Health issues sidelined several peace-loving participants in years even before the pandemic.
"If it was dire enough, though, I think even us old coots would come out," she added. "It would probably have to be another invasion, but I have hope there won't be."
"It is bittersweet but fitting that we concluded (our vigils) just before Memorial Day and the recent announcement by President Biden that all troops would be out of Afghanistan by this coming September," Anderson said. "We had overwhelming honks and waves at the last vigil. Sandy was full of all kinds of demonstrations last year and people turning out and giving a positive message. We felt it was appropriate that we give one final message that just said: 'peace.'"
Pass the peace
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