Updated: Dec 8, 2021
I recently returned from a trip (American Heartland Tour) for my non-profit, the Making History Project. The goal of the trip was to get out to the small towns of America and conduct oral history interviews of Veterans to preserve their military service stories.
The final stats for this trip were incredible. Over the course of 39 days, I was able to interview 39 Veterans while traveling across 15 States. In doing so, I drove a total of 7,659 miles while deeply exploring 28 great cities and visiting 3 Veteran Homes, 7 prominent military museums, 12 cultural and historical museums, and 21 national and state parks.
Of the many Veterans, their family members, Veterans Affairs employees, Veteran Home nurses and staff, VFW and American Legion Post leaders, that I met, they were all greatly appreciative and willing to participate in this important project. For that, I am grateful.
The American Heartland Tour checked off so many boxes for me, all of them not coincidentally were related to peace. After personally witnessing it countless times, there is no doubt that a sense of peace and gratification was brought to the Veterans that shared their stories with me.
Many of these Veterans were suffering in different ways, physically, mentally, and emotionally at this stage of their life, but yet for the brief time with me, they seemed to forget all of that and were eager to relive and tell their stories.
Likewise, the attending family members, nurses, and staff also experienced a sense of peace and relief in seeing the Veterans genuinely enjoy themselves during their interviews. Myself, I felt at peace in the presence of these Veterans, grateful for the honor and trust they had in me to tell their stories to a stranger.
Incidental to this great trip was the opportunity to see all of these great small towns that make America great. Small-town America is alive and well, as every community was dedicated to preserving its history and traditions. I was truly at peace walking through the parks, neighborhoods, and museums of these various towns to see their differences, history, and the context for how they arose.
For the bigger picture of our planet, being in nature and seeing the natural marvels of the Badlands, Yellowstone, Monument Valley, the Arches, the Grand Canyon, and the Painted Desert, as well as all the creatures that inhabit these places was also awe-inspiring.
Upon reflection, this trip gave me a greater appreciation for the connection we have to each other as people, communities, and to the planet and nature. The interviews and interaction with the Veterans demonstrated the human connection we can have. The small towns, museums, and their traditions reflected our differences across communities and cultures. The natural marvels, vast spaces, and the enormous passage of time to create all of it, demonstrated how short and yet precious our time is on this planet.
I would strongly encourage you to try to adopt a similar lens the next time you take a trip. Engage the people. Observe the community and traditions. Appreciate nature, its beauty, vastness, and the time it took to evolve. I think you will be amazed by the connections each of these three different lenses have.
For me, the lesson was pretty clear. To be a peacemaker, you need to be a people person and be willing to listen. At the same time, you need to appreciate the differences of culture that exist between us and the history that made it so. And bringing it home, given the relatively short period of time that we have on this great planet, we really do not have time to not pursue peace each and every day. Conflict is optional. Peace is a choice.
Miami Florida Mediator