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Letters by Sarah Vekasi
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Dearest friends,

It seems appropriate to write since today is Veteran’s Day.  I have long thought of Veteran’s Day as an opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate the people who are fighting to help make our homes and our world a better place, and living a life of service. I know Veteran’s Day is generally focused on acknowledging members of the military, so while we participate in and listen to the speeches about courage, valor, bravery, strength against all odds, endurance through adversity, etc., let’s expand the definition to include public recognition and appreciation for all of those who are fighting to protect our home, relentlessly working for a more just world with room for all of us.

May we all lay a wreath of gratitude and in memory of all those community organizers, educators, agitators, activists, artists, analysts, meditators, mediators, visionaries and warriors who have laid down their lives in acts of service. Let us collectively raise a fist in solidarity with all those fighting today, and open those palms into handshakes and hugs in mutual support, since it takes all of us.  

I woke up thinking about all of people I work with throughout Appalachia who are fighting for a more just and sustainable region (yes, I am thinking about each and every one of yall). I am so grateful to each person, and to each organization, that my heart swells thinking of all I have witnessed. We all know by now that mountaintop removal coal mining is literally killing us, there are nineteen formal health studies that prove it in too many ways, as well as all of the funerals, gall-bladder surgeries, out-migration, pervasive unemployment and under-employment throughout the extractive counties in the region, yet people are standing up every single day to the coal industry, not because they have to, but because our hearts tell us that we have to.

Let us all take a moment today to lift up our appreciation for anyone and everyone who is living a life of service, who is giving themselves to a cause or a movement.

Maybe you want to lift up the people engaging in the Occupy encampments, or the twelve thousand people who circled the White House last weekend to protest the Keystone XL pipeline, or all of the community educators teaching peace-building in schools, artists who use art to change public discourse, spiritual teachers who are encouraging and modeling ways to live in line with shared values, etc.  I want to personally lift up the hard-working folks throughout Appalachia and beyond who are working tirelessly to transform the century old oppression brought on by the corporate dominance of the coal industry and demanding an immediate end to mountaintop removal coal mining and transition to a just and sustainable Appalachia.

Thank-you for your service!

 In Solidarity,

Sarah Vekasi, M.Div.