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167th Airlift Wing promotes peace with special delivery to Afghanistan

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Stacy Gault
  • 167th Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
"May Peace Prevail on Earth." These five words can be found on monuments throughout the world in 180 countries and countless languages including the Afghan dialects Dari and Pashto.

A 167th Airlift Wing crew transported the first documented Peace Pole in Afghanistan from Martinsburg, W.Va., to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, on an Air Force C-5 Galaxy aircraft in January. Weighing in at only 10 pounds, the pole carries a heavy burden nearly 7,000 miles across the world.

A Peace Pole is a hand-crafted monument that displays the message and prayer in the language of the country where it has been placed, and usually three to five additional translations. The Peace Pole Project is advanced by The World Peace Prayer Society and has helped place more than 100,000 poles around the world.

"'May Peace Prevail on Earth' is a simple prayer representing the hopes and dreams of people everywhere," said Gerry Eitner, Warrenton, Va., and president of Communities of Peace Foundation, who initiated the project three years ago.

"We may not know all of the steps to achieve the result, but having everyone hold the same goal can be very powerful," said Eitner, who began working with Lt. Col. James Powell, the 167th Airlift Squadron director of operations and fellow parish member, at the beginning of her project where he explored the possibility of transporting the pole straight to Afghanistan. He said, unbeknownst to her, he'd flown there on several missions so he inquired about the size and weight of the pole.

"When she told me the pole was approximately seven feet long and weighed only a few pounds, I revealed to her that I had flown to Afghanistan in the past and would most likely go again in the future," Powell said.

Powell told Eitner he would explore the possibility with his supervisors for approval to take it in his personal baggage on a future scheduled mission.

Eitner presented her first Peace Pole to the Pentagon chapel in September 2000. Retired Pentagon Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Henry Haynes accepted the pole and it has remained on display at the Pentagon. Since then, she's arranged two other Peace Pole dedications, one in Rady Park, Warrenton, Va., and the other the Bald Eagle Ranch and Conference Center, Culpeper, Va. The ranch and conference center is a retreat dedicated to treating U.S. military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Eitner wasn't alone in her quest; she enlisted the help of 150 students to include their best wishes for peace to accompany the pole. Cassandra Lubowsky, a senior at Fauquier High School in Warrenton, Va., got involved in the project as part of her senior capstone class.

"I was one of the few people in my class to have a wonderful connection to Gerry [Eitner] and be able to get involved in a project with such a global impact," said Lubowsky who also painted the box pole was transported in with Afghanistan flag colors.

"Cassandra is an involved young lady who really 'got it' and engaged many of her high school friends in sending prayers and best wishes for peace along with the peace pole," Eitner said.

Eitner said Communities of Peace has been sponsoring an exchange program with Afghan and American young adults for more than ten years because "children carry a special sense of love, possibility, innocence and caring."

The Peace Pole is currently located at the Afghan Embassy in Kabul awaiting the official dedication this spring. Eitner said The Afghan High Council for Peace would like to specifically involve Afghan women and children in the ceremony, where she also plans to attend.

Adding: "Women operate in a different way; especially mothers who want a peaceful world for our children - everywhere."