Last weekend, like I do every Memorial Day weekend, I drove to a small cemetery in Portsmouth Township, Bay County, to clean my brother’s grave site. It consists of two markers: one my parents chose for their son, and one government-issued that reads Pfc. Mark Roland Schafer, US Army, Persian Gulf.
My family became a Gold Star family when my brother was killed by gunfire when he was in the service. My parents were presented with a 13-fold flag, but they asked that no rifle volleys be discharged at his grave site. The sound of gunfire was something we couldn’t bear to hear.
My brother was buried in the frozen ground when I was 18 years old and he was just days away from 20. I remember how brutally cold it was that day, and how I sobbed on my knees, begging my father not to put my brother in that hole. A few weeks later, my brother was honorably discharged from the military.
My brother’s story is not one of a daring-do tale of heroism and him being killed in action; rather it’s a story that is part of a uniquely American tragedy. My brother was killed with a firearm; he was murdered by a teenager who obtained his father’s unsecured Browning pistol and used it to shoot my brother five times.
For many years I was fed the narrative that these things happen and nothing could be done, and that my brother was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.
It wasn’t until gun violence devastated my family again when my father took his own life with his hunting rifle that I decided I would stand up and not accept the narratives that I’d been fed for years. It was my duty to seek a greater understanding of gun violence and how it affects families and communities throughout Michigan and the nation.
This coming weekend I’m excited to share what I have learned through my journey at a National Gun Violence Awareness Event on the Capitol Lawn.
During the weekend of June 1-3, 2018, Survivors of Gun Violence and Michiganders, will be hosting Wear Orange-National Gun Violence Awareness events throughout the state: Brighton, Lansing, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Traverse City, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo are just a sampling of the communities that will be acknowledging this day with Wear Orange Events. When you see people in Livingston County Wearing Orange this weekend, please acknowledge them and those they are honoring whose lives have been cut short or changed forever by gun violence.
National Gun Violence Awareness day is a time to celebrate that hope that as Americans we can end gun violence. Wear Orange Events serve as a way to communicate the hope that in America we are changing the culture and conversation around gun violence.
Each day, 96 Americans — seven of whom are children — are killed by gun violence, while hundreds more are wounded.
Wear Orange Give me hope that one day black men won’t be 13 times more likely to be killed with a gun than white men in this country.
It gives me hope that one day survivors of abuse will not live in fear that their abuser has access to a gun. Did you know that in the U.S. 50 women a month are killed with a firearm by their intimate partner.
Wear Orange Gives me hope that one day America’s suicide-by-firearm rate will not be eight times higher, and our homicide-by-firearm rate will not be 25 times higher than those of other peer countries.
I have hope that our children will no longer live in fear of gun violence, not only in their classrooms, but just walking to and from school
In recent weeks, I was one of more than 40 other Michiganders affected by gun violence who communicated with Gov. Snyder’s office, asking that he consider signing a proclamation declaring June 1 to be “Wear Orange — National Gun Violence Awareness Day.” We were not successful in getting this proclamation signed despite other proclamations issued with a lighthearted, perhaps amusing intent, like “Suit and Sneakers Day” last month.
But there came a breakthrough: Gov. Snyder’s office sent us a letter of recognition that read, “On behalf of the people of Michigan, thank you for your dedication and commitment to strengthening and supporting the people and communities of Michigan. I encourage all residents to support their local communities in their efforts to prevent the tragic effects of gun violence and to honor all those who have been tragically lost.”
While officially our state did not declare it National Gun Violence Awareness Day, mayors in cities throughout Michigan have signed proclamations.
Wear Orange coalition partners, artists, cultural influencers, city officials, law enforcement, faith leaders, survivors, teachers, moms, dads, students and more are coming together with a shared belief that as Americans we can do better, and that we can create a culture free from gun violence. This year more than 420 events across the country on Wear Orange weekend will commemorate this day. And more than 200 Landmarks in America — including the Spirit of Detroit and the Empire State Building — will go orange in honor in support of National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
For information on the Brighton Wear Orange event, click here.
You can check out the event’s Facebook page by clicking here.