“I can’t sit here and do nothing while this war keeps claiming kids and stealing souls.” This was the response I received from Fernando Suárez del Solar when I questioned his newest and boldest idea for bringing an end to the bloodshed in Iraq.

Many would find it a sad irony to know that the first Mexican to die in this war was of the name Jesús. Fernando’s son, Jesús Suárez del Solar, was a charismatic young soul who above all placed a premium on helping children. Jesús joined the Marines believing he would free the children of Iraq. This was his mission, and when he died, Fernando made it his.

Fernando learned his son fell to enemy fire and was devastated, but his heart was yet to be further shattered. He soon learned, by his own merit on a humanitarian mission to Iraq, that the military had lied to him. His son was the victim of the only weapons of mass destruction so far encountered in Iraq. Jesús stepped on an illegal U.S. mine. Since learning the truth, Fernando has made it his mission to shed light on the multitude of lies that surround the invasion and occupation of Iraq and to help in every way possible the children in Iraq, as well as his son’s fellow troops.

After countless visits to high schools to shed light on the reality of war and two trips to Iraq bringing clothes and medicines for Iraqi children, the bloodshed continues. There have been countless peace demonstrations and local marches, but the number of fallen soldiers continues to rise. This year, on the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Fernando cannot be satisfied by a local protest or a rally with some interviews calling for an end to the madness. So he seeks to evoke a tradition long established in Chicano history, the spirit of Gandhi. César Chávez was a disciple of the late Mahatma, once quoted as saying, “There is no such thing as defeat in nonviolence.” And the words of Benito Juárez were antecedents to the marriage of the Gandhi and Chicano struggles when he proclaimed, “Entre los individuos, como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz” (between individuals, like between nations, respect for the rights of others is peace).

Fernando recalls last year’s 75th anniversary of “The Salt March,” but he isn’t content to commemorate such a milestone every 25 years. Instead, he seeks to put in practice the spirit of Gandhi that has marched with César Chávez, and to reclaim our Latino legacy of men like Benito Juárez. This nation undoubtedly opposes this war, but it will take action and sacrifice, and Fernando is twice willing. On March 12, the 76th anniversary of “The Salt March,” Fernando Suárez del Solar will begin a 241-mile march that will trace the life and passion of his son Jesús from Tijuana to Camp Pendleton. From there Fernando will continue where his son left off and walk in the footsteps of sections of the great César Chávez-led march from Delano to Sacramento. The march will end on the anniversary of the death of Jesús, March 27, in San Francisco, where Fernando plans to lead a large-scale blood drive for those in need in Iraq by being the first to give his blood. In hopes of emphasizing the equal value of every human life, the blood will be equally divided to help Iraqi civilians and coalition forces.

I will not allow 50-year-old Fernando to walk alone on March 12, and I call on anyone who agrees that the violence in Iraq must end and that the will of this country must be upheld, to join us in demanding an end to the Bloodshed. Let’s not sit around anymore.

Pablo Paredes refused Navy orders to board a ship in San Diego and transport Marines to Iraq because he did not want to be complicit in war crimes in an illegal war. He was court-martialed, but received no time in custody. He has been speaking out against the war ever since. This originally appeared at truthout.org.

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