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Grantee Spotlight: Veterans For Peace

Grantee Spotlight: A Q+A with North Carolina Humanities Grantee Eisenhower Chapter 157 Veterans For Peace


In 2017, North Carolina Humanities awarded a Large Grant to Eisenhower Chapter 157 Veterans For Peace, based in the Triangle region of North Carolina.


In the ensuing year, the chapter installed a 24-foot-tall traveling, interactive belltower at North Carolina State University and in Washington, D.C., where the community was invited to add inscriptions about their experiences with war and share their visions of how we can “beat swords into plowshares.” The tower was also displayed in Raleigh in the weeks leading up to Veterans Day and Memorial Day weekends in Washington, D.C.


Visitors to the Belltower shared their stories by writing or drawing their thoughts on handmade, recycled aluminum plaques and then placing them onto the tower itself. Visitors were also encouraged to talk with others on site and ring the tower’s bell. A video crew recorded the November 2017 Belltower installation, resulting in the production of several short documentary films and exhibits that were showcased both in person and online with assistance from North Carolina Humanities.


Last year, NC Humanities honored Chapter 157 Veterans For Peace with the Harlan Joel Gradin Award for Excellence in Public Humanities because of their project’s outstanding commitment to military veterans and community engagement.


We connected with Roger Ehrlich, Co-Creator of the Swords to Plowshares Memorial Belltower, to hear about the project now and how NC Humanities helped kickstart a tool for healing and remembrance.


To learn more about the Swords to Plowshares Memorial Belltower visit


Q: How did Swords to Plowshares Memorial Belltower come about?

 Roger: As a sociologist and activist, I’ve worked with a lot of veterans and others who’ve suffered from war but who do not necessarily find their experience reflected in conventional memorials. I thought we could initiate something more inclusive and healing. I’d long been inspired by the WWI Belltower at NCSU with the Old Testament passage on its bronze door: ‘And They Shall Beat Their Swords into Plowshares.’ That was meaningful to me because my own Grandads fought on opposite sides of ‘The War to End All Wars.’ I experimented with making plaques out of old aluminum cans that anybody could inscribe a remembrance on. My friend Joe welded a beautiful portable 24-foot-tall tower with a replica ‘Swords into Plowshares Door,’ we borrowed a huge bell, and teamed up with Veterans For Peace.



Q: How do you think interacting with the Belltower has impacted those involved?

Roger: When someone first approaches the Belltower, like when it’s been at the State Capitol, they might hear the bell ring or see the plaques shimmering in the light and fluttering in the wind. They are often surprised to see it’s fashioned from repurposed cans and that it bears inscriptions in many different languages about how civilians and combatants on all sides of war have been affected. We tell all visitors that anyone is free to add an inscription to share how they or someone close to them has been affected by war. We have also invited visitors to share their stories and hopes for healing, recorded if they choose, before they hang their plaques and ring the bell. People often left with tears in their eyes and thanked us for this opportunity to engage.



Q: It’s been 100 years since the end of WWI, hence the “Centennial Tour” of the tower in 2018. Can you tell us about what the Swords to Plowshares Memorial Belltower means to you now in 2022?

Roger: At a time when many are challenging monuments of our past, support from NC Humanities helped us to model what an inclusive memorial could look like. Unlike most memorials, the Swords to Plowshares Belltower does not limit attention to the service and suffering of combatants from just one nation or impose one interpretation “chiseled in stone” but allows anyone to inscribe their story on a plaque and add it to the Belltower. Public health concerns with COVID-19 have limited our opportunities for setting up the Belltower in the past two years, but the need for dialogue about how we might help veterans and our society heal has been heightened. I believe it has also validated the importance of dialogue about how we might shift resources to human needs, as we’ve grown to appreciate the sacrifices of essential workers in all services, as well as our military veterans. We hope to continue to expand the project.


Q: How can people support the project today?

Roger: Please support Veterans For Peace at; non-veteran members are welcome too! You can also visit and follow the project on social media.


About North Carolina Humanities’ Grantee Spotlights: In celebration of our 50th anniversary, NC Humanities Grantee Spotlights shine a light on the incredible work of our grantee partners, offering details about their funded project, and feature a Q&A with a team member associated with the organization.


Photo Captions: 

1_ Swords to Plowshares Memorial Belltower on display. Photo Credit:

2_Man rings the bell. Photo Credit:

3_Roger Ehrlich (right), Co-Creator of the Swords to Plowshares Memorial Belltower, and friend shake hands in front of the Belltower. Photo Credit: