Veterans for Peace, Northeast Ohio Chapter 39, spearheaded a community effort to seek withdrawal of the Virtual Army Experience from the 2008 Cleveland National Air Show. Earlier this summer, a successful effort had been undertaken in Milwaukee by the VFP chapter and other peace activists. Similar efforts had not been successful in Duluth.
On Monday, July 28, 2008, a four-week plan was developed. Opening day for the Air Show was scheduled for August 30th.
Goal: To enlist the widest possible community involvement in our efforts. To that end, it was determined our biggest resource would be the internet.
Message: Simulated Killing at the Air Show is not acceptable. After examining the Army’s response to efforts in both Milwaukee and Duluth, it was determined that we had to stay away from opposition to our current war, or war in general, and focus on the shooting-gallery, killing aspect of the “game.”
We highlighted seven principles we hoped the community would support:
- The Air Show is promoted as wholesome family activity
- Technology that simulates killing has no place in it
- The VAE misleads people about soldiering, disrespects what real soldiers experience and trivializes the burden they carry
- The Army may call it virtual, but it inflicts real pain on those who have been in war, have lost loved ones in war, and have lived with those who carry the scars of war
- The VAE desensitizes young people to killing
- Labor Day celebrates working men and women. The Air Show’s stated purpose is to assist careers in aviation
- Tax dollars are used to pay for the VAE
There is no way to determine exactly how many phone calls and emails were made to elected officials and sponsors, but we would assume hundreds. Anecdotes as well as an Army counter-effort would support this. On Friday, August 29th, the day before the opening of the Air Show, in response to a request from the Mayor’s office, the Army raised the age for VAE participants from thirteen to seventeen. The VFP put its opposition efforts on hold.