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Couple organize pursuit of peace

By MARYAN PELLAND
Published October 10, 2005


SPRING HILL - Terror alerts are coded by color, although you might not be sure whether red means elevated or severe. But Eileen Lemieux is certain that CODEPINK means peace.

She has founded a local chapter of the national organization CODEPINK: Women for Peace, and her husband, Joe, is putting together a similar group, Veterans for Peace.

The Spring Hill business owners, both 57, describe themselves as everyday people.

"I'm not any sort of a radical," Eileen said. "I believe it's time to stand up and say Iraq is simply not the place we want our children serving and our resources wasted."

She said this is not about the American troops engaged in Iraq. "It's about finding a positive way to be heard locally and nationally. And Iraq is not our only concern."

The national CODEPINK group is serious about its issues with the war, but members allow themselves a bit of fun in their protests, and Eileen hopes to do the same. She wants to create a grass roots outlet for women who care about peace, want to bond with others who feel the same way, and wish to motivate change.

"The national group delivers pink slips to people in Washington who aren't doing the job," she said. "Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney each got one. So did Mrs. Clinton. CODEPINK hangs a lady's slip, the lingerie type, from a building or delivers it to the Senate floor with a message on it for the recipient. We'll do the same locally."

Eileen declined to say if she has any local recipients in mind; she would rather let the members decide, and the list of members is growing.

"Look. Too few troops and resources. The largest trade deficit and general deficit we've ever had. Where is the money going to come from to react to the hurricanes? We need to spend more on domestic issues, not $5.5-million a week in a war that can't be concluded."

- JOE LEMIEUX, peace activist

Her husband is just as ready to get to work. Three years ago, Joe co-founded, with Brian Moore, the Nature Coast Coalition for Peace and Justice, and he sees a need for another organization. Both men agree there's no time like the present to raise voices.

"Veterans have a particular way of looking at things. I hope to give them a place to have their say," Joe explained.

Although Joe is not a veteran, his brother was a Marine machine gunner who served two tours in Vietnam. His life and the family's life were profoundly affected. Joe's aim is to organize the group out of concern for veterans. But once it's up and going, he intends to step aside and let the membership elect the leaders.

His goals for the group's immediate future include campaigning to have military recruiters barred from local schools, as has been done in several other areas of the country.

"That's like holding a draft," Joe said. "They go in there and tell students anything they want. There is no balancing information. Kids need the whole story. They get promised school money and great jobs, then get shipped off to Iraq with unarmored Humvees and inadequate equipment. But if a group like ours tried to appear, we'd get run off the property."

Joe expects to coordinate the veterans group's efforts with Moore's group, participating in peaceful demonstrations and voicing opposition to the war. Moore agrees there is a need for the new organization and thinks there's a strong feeling among veterans about the wastefulness of this war.

Paying close attention to public feelings toward the war, Moore said that some politicians who support the effort may be shifting slightly.

"For instance," he said, "Ginny Brown-Waite was quoted saying she supports the war but is worried about the length of it. To me, that's encouraging. It's a crack in the dike."

Both Eileen and Joe Lemieux are worried about the cost of war.

Joe said, "We want to stop the war ... see the troops come home immediately. It's ridiculous. We've lost too many people. It's another Vietnam.

"Look. Too few troops and resources. The largest trade deficit and general deficit we've ever had. Where is the money going to come from to react to the hurricanes? We need to spend more on domestic issues, not $5.5-million a week in a war that can't be concluded."

Both Eileen and Joe have attended protests in Washington and hope to focus on national issues, but also aim to lead grass roots efforts to make government accountable on all levels.

The groups hope to garner enough interest to hold kickoff meetings by the end of October. Eileen's CODEPINK group can be reached at 263-9437 and Joe's Veterans for Peace at 279-2539.

--Maryan Pelland can be reached at mkpelland@gmail.com

[Last modified October 10, 2005, 01:18:12]


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