Former Army Captain Paul Chappell, who now works as the Peace Leadership director for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, has recently joined the ranks of some of America’s most commemorated heroes in Robert Shetterly’s acclaimed “Americans Who Tell the Truth,” a series of painted portraits and quotes.
Shetterly said he was upset with the U.S. government’s decision to launch the Iraq War after September 11, explaining, “I felt I needed to do something in response … I knew it had to be something positive, not just something showing how angry I was. I decided to begin surrounding myself with [portraits of] Americans I valued for their courage and idealism to try to make this country truly reflect its own values.” His 150-plus pieces have been travelling across the country since 2003, and his book of portraits received an award from the International Reading Association in 2006.
While Shetterly’s body of work was making its way around the U.S., Chappell — who now calls Santa Barbara home — was in the Army. For a time, he was deployed in the very war that motivated Shetterly’s series. Coming from a military family and graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point did not deter Chappell from sharing Shetterly’s sentiments on the importance of peace.
“Because of his military background and ability to explain philosophical issues, he has a unique authority to convince people of another way to live,” Shetterly said, describing why he felt the former soldier was an invaluable American truth teller. For Chappell, understanding war is crucial to creating peace. “We need to study war to end war,” he said, “like doctors study diseases and illnesses in order to cure them.”
Since leaving active duty two years ago, Chappell has lectured internationally and written three books that focus on uniting people to find an end to war, a concept he refers to as “waging peace.”
“Peace needs a verb,” Chappell explained. “It automatically shows that peace is an action.” His long-term army experience has convinced him that America’s military budget and deterrence policies are painfully and dangerously outdated. He is afraid that too many Americans are politically dejected and silent, perhaps the point he most strongly shares with Shetterly.
“But it’s more than being like-minded,” Shetterly went on. “It’s about sharing an urgent mission to change the course of this country.”