More than 70 community members gathered at the Colusa County Office of Education’s Education Village in Williams on Thursday for a short ceremony and unveiling of another Peace Pole in Colusa County.
Peace Poles are monument displays that are inscribed with the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in the languages where it has been placed, with up to five additional translations.
Peace Poles began in 1955 in Japan by Masahisa Goi. Today, the Peace Pole Project is continued through the World Peace Prayer Society. Since 1983, more than 200,000 peace poles in 180 countries all over the world dedicated as monuments to peace.
Colusa County has its fair share of them.
Thursday’s ceremony in Williams was particularly special for Gloria Estrada, the woman who helped bring the first Peace Pole to Colusa County and who has played a significant role in every one placed here since.
“My mission here was to have one planted at each elementary school, and I’ve done that, with the love and the support of the community,” Estrada said after the ceremony on Thursday.
Estrada’s mission to bring Peace Poles to Coulsa County’s grammar schools began in tragedy, on August 11, 2011.
On that day, a roadside bomb killed Estrada’s son, Pfc. Rueben “Boy” Lopez, and five others while they were serving on active duty in Afghanistan. Lopez’s death rocked the entire community of Williams, which had not suffered such a loss since the Vietnam War. Since then, Estrada has been instrumental in placing Peace Poles throughout the county, each of which has been dedicated in honor of her son.
“The love and support just continues. It’s been – it feels like an eternity for me. It just feels amazing, and it’s so healing for me, for my heart, to see the community members come,” Estrada said. “It’s indescribable, is what it is. It’s just beautiful.”
On Thursday, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2441 and the Maxwell American Legion Post 218 served as the Color Guard for the unveiling ceremony. Students from the CCOE’s community school also helped with the ceremony, passing out small flags and peace pins beforehand.
In addition to Lopez, a second service member was honored at the ceremony on Thursday: Bradley J. West, brother of Colusa County Superintendent of Schools Michael West. Bradley West was an E4 Specialist during the first Gulf War, and experienced his share of struggles after returning home.
“He’s had his struggles, but he’s doing better now, and getting better every day,” West said, adding that the ceremony on Thursday was an opportunity to honor what all people in the service have done for their country.
“Any time we have an opportunity to celebrate that, we need to recognize and acknowledge it,” West said. “It’s one of those things where we take so much for granted… These guys, the sacrifices these men and women have made – it’s a struggle, and we just need to really celebrate the fact that they were there for us, and not forget that, because we still have a lot of men and women out there that are still in the same boat.”
Despite meeting her goal of having a Peace Pole placed at each of Colusa County’s elementary schools, the work is only just beginning for Estrada, who said she would focus her efforts on the Placer County area, where her grandchildren go to school.
“I have my grandchildren, so more than likely we will be putting up Peace Poles, still, in other school districts and other areas,” Estrada said. “My grandchildren go to school in Roseville, so they’re going to start popping up, up there more.” ■