|Michael Oren, a
self-described Peacewalker, in downtown Bowling Green. (Photo: Aaron
When Michael Oren started out on his cross-country walks for peace, conservative Republican George W.
Bush was in office.
Five years later, a liberal Democrat Barack Obama has been elected.
That doesn’t mean that Oren feels any closer to his goal of getting almost all U.S. troops out of Iraq
"I’m kind of frustrated because they’ve been transferring troops from Iraq to Afghanistan and
escalating the war," Oren said. Based on Obama’s campaign rhetoric the United State military
"is supposed to be withdrawing."
Still the mood of the country has changed since Sept. 21, 2004 when Oren got the idea of trekking by foot
from San Bernandino,, Calif. to the Statue of Liberty in New York City, to protest the war, and raise
He does it one person at a time, one peace sign at a time.
Oren, a 1972 graduate of Bowling Green High School, was driven to walk by a news story about a father,
Carlos Arrendondo of Hollywood, Fla., who was so distraught when he learned of the death of his son, a
Marine, that he attacked the government van of the two Marines who informed him. In the course of the
attack, a fire broke out and he received second and third degree burns. The media originally reported
erroneously he had set himself on fire.
Oren has since met Arrendondo, who after a year being treated for his burns, continues to advocate for
The father has taken some abuse from hecklers who call him "father on fire," Oren said, but he
continues. Oren himself takes abuse, he admits. "Bumps along the road."
During the early years of his travels, he found himself incarcerated a few times. But as public opinion
has turned against the war, he hears more "positive things about what I’m doing."
And "since 2006 law enforcement around the country has been very kind to me."
He tries to influence the people he meets along the way as he goes from capitol to capitol, and once
there will stand quietly making the peace sign. It’s better he’s found than yelling at people, Oren
said. This is his way of supporting the troops, he said.
Oren, 55, has walked with a pack weighing between 40 and 60 pounds about 1,000 miles a year for the past
five, that includes a six-month hiatus when he was back in Las Vegas when his first grandchild was born.
He doesn’t rely completely on walking as he moves around the country. He arrived in Bowling Green about
a week ago from Wisconsin by getting a ride with a trucker, and he’ll ride down to Tampa, Fla. From
there he’ll head off to the state capitols of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and
Virginia "and then to the White House if need be."
He stops by his hometown periodically to recharge and rest. Oren will stay in town long enough to march
as part of the Native American unit in Saturday’s Holiday Parade.