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Charles Carney completes 253-Mile Wichita-KC Peace Walk

Have we reached a point in history where we are ready to embrace a new way of living in the world, expanding not our military power, but our humanity?—Howard Zinn

By Mary Hladky

On Sept 17, Charles Carney completed his 38-day walk, traveling 253 miles from McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, KS, to the Honeywell nuclear bomb parts plant in Kansas City, MO. Charles’ purpose was to draw attention to the catastrophic dangers of nuclear weapons and the climate crisis.

Charles Carney, right foreground, and Brother Louis Rodemann walk behind others who traversed the last mile of the Peace Walk.—Photo by Ann Suellentrop

About 25 activists from PeaceWorks-KC and its allies were there to greet Charles. Some walked the last 1-4 miles with him, carrying signs such as “Nuclear Weapons Are Illegal,” “Nukes Kill and Pollute,” and “Human Care Not Warfare” as they reached the entry road to the Honeywell plant.

Henry Stoever, who walked partway with Charles and provided support along the way, guided about 25 of us through our Finale Rally, mindful of the beating sun and heat.

I spoke briefly, thanking Charles, and all those who walked some of the way with him, for this beautiful witness. Charles makes clear what is really important: loving and caring for each other and our world. It is this goodness, and our actions, that will bring us to a better world.

Kathy Downing, of the Kansas Poor People’s Campaign (KPPC), says the KPPC has a moral agenda based on fundamental human rights and stands in solidarity with the Peace Walk. Kathy quoted from the Poor People’s Campaign national leader Rev. William Barber and Tope Folarin in an article on CommonDreams.org,  saying, “Spending more on the US military budget than the next 10 countries combined represents a huge part of the reason we have to struggle so hard to fund crucial social needs—from health care to climate to education and more.”

Kathy Downing says the Kansas Poor People’s Campaign stands in solidarity with the Peace Walk.—Photo by Jane Stoever

Ann Suellentrop, PeaceWorks’ resident expert on all things nuclear, reminded us that we are in the middle of a second, much more dangerous, nuclear arms race.  Besides a nuclear bomb parts plant in our own backyard, there is the closed Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base, not far from the plant, that is highly contaminated with “forever chemicals” such as PFAS. Read Ann’s full comments here.

Maurice Copeland, retired from the old KC nuclear weapon plant, recalls the drastic consequences for plant workers exposed to toxic chemicals.—Photo by Kriss Avery

Maurice Copeland addressed the crowd, reminding us of the numerous illnesses and deaths experienced by plant workers exposed to toxic chemicals at the now defunct Bannister Road nuclear parts plant. He questioned what toxic exposures may be happening today at the new plant.

Ron Faust, our awe-inspiring poet, read, as the crowd joined in, his poem “Peace Walk”.  Ron, who also walked partway with Charles, was so moved he added another just-written poem “Learning Peace” at the end of the event.

Charles addressed the crowd with humility and humor, realizing how utterly dependent on community this walk was. Charles told the crowd, “We will not reach a nuclear free world alone; we will do it as an ever-expanding community of love.  And I cannot say enough about how my co-walkers and support drivers raised consciousness and helped the walk keep going.”

Walking east, toward the entry road to the KC National Security Campus, walkers pause with Charles Carney (front row, third from left) in front of the NSC Administration Building.—Photo by Ann Suellentrop

Honoring his recently-deceased brother-in-law, who led the move to create a nature trail near Wichita, Charles named his trek the Wichita-to-KC Bob Lavelle Memorial Peace Walk.

A website story with videos of Charles’ talk is at https://peaceworkskc.org/nonviolence/videos-from-finale-rally-for-carneys-peace-walk. A story with a slideshow from the rally is at https://peaceworkskc.org/nonviolence/peace-walk-finale-rally-slideshow.

At the start of the rally, I addressed the fact that instead of caring for people and our planet, we have lived in the shadow of the United States 20-year “Global War on Terror.”

President Biden told Americans that the government spent $300 million, each and every day, for 20 years on the Afghanistan War. And that’s just a small portion of what the US spends each day on militarism. Just think what good could have been done with $300 million dollars a day (that’s $2 trillion over 20 years).

Part of this war machine is the Honeywell nuclear bomb parts plant—the National Security Campus—where we held our rally near the entry road. Instead of this plant participating in making weapons of mass destruction, it could be repurposed for good, building innovative green products protecting our environment.

Just 3% of US military spending could end starvation on Earth, according to data from the United Nations.

Volunteer sunflowers and prairie grass grace the former soybean field that is now the “campus” where parts for nuclear weapons are made.—Photo by Jane Stoever

We can’t continue down this path of destructive US militarism. Our duty is to tell the true story of war and the dangers of nuclear weapons, and to demand major cuts to the Pentagon budget. Congress will be voting on the Pentagon budget in the next week or two. Tell your senators and representatives to CUT the Pentagon budget — not increase it.

It is time now to urgently develop a culture of peace and cooperation, so that we can focus our time, money, and resources on people and the planet.

—Mary Hladky, vice chair of PeaceWorks-KC, is active in Military Families Speak Out and in United for Peace and Justice. Copyright 2021, Mary Hladky, Kathy Downing, Jane Stoever, Ann Suellentrop, Kriss Avery, Charles Carney, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.

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