Gerald (Jerry) Pederson’s commitment to propelling peace has impacted many people in his 98 years of life. The UC Davis Hospice Team, who provided Pederson with end-of-life support and care, were no exception. The team was inspired by Pederson’s pledge to promote peacekeeping.
Pederson’s dedication to peacekeeping arose out of his service in the Marine Corps during World War II. At the age of eighteen, Pederson enlisted in the Marine Corps, just eleven days after his high school graduation. Pederson’s three-year service with the Marine Corps included his membership in a five-member anti-aircraft machine gun unit on the USS Missouri. While stationed in this post aboard the USS Missouri, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Pederson initially joined in the excitement of the defeat of Japan. However, as night fell, Pederson began to question his peers’ celebratory reactions as well as his own.
“A whole city destroyed, thousands of civilians, women, and children, killed, and we, I, am cheering and wildly celebrating. Have we, have I… lost our humanity? Is this what happens to people in war? Is this really the way to peace? Is there a better way?” Pederson described to the UC Davis Hospice Team as he recounted this memory.
With the dawn of a nuclear age, Pederson resolved to become a peacemaker. He described President MacArthur’s statement, “War is not the absence of peace. Peace is a place where life in its wholeness is lived out,” as pivotal to his decision.
In pursuing his goal of promoting peace, Pederson went on to become a minister in the Lutheran Church. In this role, he pursued peacekeeping across the world – from Nebraska to East Africa to San Francisco.
Pederson understood the enemy to be more defined in 1945 than it is today. He described the enemies of today as “injustice” and “indifference.” Pederson recognized threats to peace within the unjust treatment of Black Americans and immigrants as well as the nation’s failure to address climate change. As a minister and dedicated peacekeeper, Pederson endeavored to promote peace and counteract injustice in these areas.
In a We Honor Veterans celebration, the UC Davis Hospice Team saluted and celebrated all that Gerald Pederson has accomplished in his 98 years of life. In his journey from war to peacemaking, Pederson has exemplified that peace is comprised of support, leadership, courage, and most of all, love.
By honoring Pederson, the UC Davis Hospice Team demonstrated the power and purpose of celebrating and honoring loved ones before they pass, rather than waiting until after death to hold a memorial. We Honor Veterans celebrations across the nation have offered critically ill Veterans, their loved ones, and medical providers the unique opportunity to experience the beauty and inspiration that come
s from end-of-life celebrations.
To learn more about Jerry’s life, check out his book entitled, Unfinished Journey: From War to Peace, From Violence to Wholeness.