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Day 5 - The Legacy of Battery Heights
On Thursday, May 24th, Nicholas Kimbrell, a recent graduate of the University of Virginia, began a five day march from Charlottesville, VA to Washington, DC to protest the war in Iraq. The walk began at UVa's storied Rotunda and ended Monday at the White House.
Nicholas Kimbrell, a recent graduate of the University of Virginia, arrived Monday, May 28th, at the People's House after being joined by his mother, Kaiulani, and more than a baker's dozen of other supporters from Codepink, World Can't Wait and the Washington Peace Center who marched in a lively and hopeful final three miles from Rosslyn with him. "I was walking through mostly familiar territory on the last day so the walk wasn't as singular, as meditative…To get to there, to see the White house, to feel the anger was incredible." At the conclusion Nick gave his "Troops Home Now...Charlottesville to DC" sign to man named Thomas, who has been holding his anti-nuke vigil there for 26 years.
Nick's march was filled with far more cheers than the few jeers. There were the two girls who drove past, and then stopped and got out to shake his hand, telling him how pleased and grateful they were for his action. There was the older man who stopped his vehicle and wanted to know "what he was about." "I told him I was about honoring the soldiers and wounded and dead American and Iraqis without honoring the misguided and corrupt scheme that sent them over there and cost them their lives. From the very beginning, this conflict has been mired in a web of falsity and deceit. We bear the responsibility to end this war, to end our participation in this poorly planned and improvised campaign of violence, to stop our military's little-supervised and wasteful spending, and to repair our nation's unprecedented fall from international grace."
Nick told the man about sacrifices his family members had made fighting for our nation: his uncle killed in the first Gulf war putting out oil fires; his grandfather, George, a colonel killed right after Korea; how his family members fought on both sides during the Civil War; and how he had just walked through the hallowed Manassas battlefields on his peace march from the UVa to DC.
In those brief moments, the men bonded in the profound and private healing way that apparently improbable kindred spirits do. The elder man had served his country in the military for 23 years, pursuing peace, just as the younger man served by reminding his countrymen to demand peace and justice for our nation, our military and the Iraqi nation. A routine farewell handshake belied the depth of their exchange.
It wasn't the only extraordinary event of Nick's march. Only the afternoon before, Nick had sat down to rest at Battery Heights, in "wavy fields of grain and high grass cover, bloody ground. I thought about how my family members fought for the Union and the Confederacy. I was sitting there conjuring up all those ghosts of the men of that war and all the others of that cataclysmic war on American soil. I closed my eyes and when I woke up the sky was confederate gray, and thunder started to roll. I started walking again and lightning began to strike. It sounded like the cannons on the battlefield. It was a really wild uncanny experience, when I thought of the thunders echoing like a cannon sounded 150 years ago – and those cannons 150 years ago sounding like and echoing thunder struck there thousands of years ago...I felt like my family ancestors and all those souls on those battlefields were with me...I walked into Centreville, soaking wet and dead tired – it was a pretty incredible experience."
"No government can continue good, but under the control of the people....Unless the mass retains sufficient control over those entrusted with the powers of their government, these will be perverted to their own oppression, and to the perpetuation of wealth and power in the individuals and their families selected for the trust." --Thomas Jefferson, founder of Nick Kimbrell's alma mater