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Peace Keepers mark first year of weekly vigils

MONTEVIDEO -- It's hard to say which day has been the worst, but two definitely stand out, according to Cody Maynus. He stood his ground on New Year's Day, when the wind chill did a limbo dance under the thermometer, all the way to a toe-numbing ...

MONTEVIDEO -- It's hard to say which day has been the worst, but two definitely stand out, according to Cody Maynus.

He stood his ground on New Year's Day, when the wind chill did a limbo dance under the thermometer, all the way to a toe-numbing minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. It wasn't any easier on a February day last year, when he and the others leaned into a blizzard-like blast of snow at this intersection.

In between, they've endured everything from rain and sleet to the withering heat of thedog days of August.

No matter the weather or the inconvenience it means to their own lives, every Tuesday evening from 5:30 to 6, the Montevideo Peace Keepers continue to make their stand for peace.

They join at the intersection of South First Street and Merriam Avenue at the south end of Montevideo's downtown. Like fans cheering on the home team, the animated group of adults and young people wave an American flag and hoist signs calling for an end to war. Motorists tap their horns and wave their greetings in response.

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This coming week will mark the one-year anniversary of their weekly vigil. They haven't missed a Tuesday yet, and that includes Christmas Day.

"As I said before, I will stay here for as long as it takes,'' said Maynus, a junior in the Montevideo High School.

He is joined each week by anywhere from five to 12 other people. They range in age from middle and high school-aged students to a retired couple.

Their vigil began on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's birthday one year ago. Member Ellen Moore suggested the idea of taking a stand for peace.

The vigil is a show of concern for U.S. troops and all of those put in harm's way in Iraq. It's also a means of speaking out against violence of all sorts -- whether domestic abuse or bullying in schools, according to the group.

They are disappointed that the war in Iraq continues, but the Peace Keepers said their enthusiasm for what they are doing has not waned. They started this vigil with no grandiose illusions, the members said.

Vicki Poier is one of the adult leaders of the Peace Keepers. She said her hope is that her weekly stand will encourage people to vote for candidates who support peaceful solutions to conflicts.

Moore said she hopes that their presence will lead children to ask their parents what is going on and that it will initiate discussions around the dinner table about war and peace. "That's what keeps me going,'' she said.

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There's no way to eavesdrop on the dinnertime conversations, but the Peace Keepers do get some sense of their impact every Tuesday at the intersection. Most motorists reaching the four-way stop either tap their horns or wave a greeting.

Rebecca Johnson, a Montevideo High School student, took her stand for the first time Tuesday. She left the group beaming: She elicited 70 honks for peace.

"We still get the occasional (person) flicking us off,'' Maynus said. Yet in an entire year, he said they've experienced only one motorist who made something of a scene by shouting derogatory statements at them.

The Peace Keepers said there remain some motorists who come to the intersection surprised to see the group. But after a full year, most people coming to the intersection know what's going on.

In their daily lives, members of the group said they are less likely to be asked questions about what they are doing now than when they started.

They continue to hear voices of support from friends and the people they meet in their daily routines, according to Barb Knutsen, one of the Peace Keepers. Some people have told her they want to come join the group on a Tuesday evening, but she said few follow up on it.

It's not always easy to do, but Maynus said the more he has done it, the more committed he has felt to it. Taking a stand for peace is an opportunity to bring about positive change, he said.

He said his only regret right now is that he can't participate in that other American opportunity to make known his views. His 18th birthday comes two weeks too late for him to vote in the 2008 election.

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