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Emancipation Proclamation 2018

poem.

Do you feel emancipated Panel 13, on the

Vietnam Memorial Wall?; and

I ask again, as I touch your names,

carved in to the cold marble stone.

Do you feel emancipated Panel 13,

as the rip tide of lies wash over

hollow words and blood soaked ground?

Do you smell the sweet Magnolia blossoms

blow from along the shore, of the Potomac River?;

with the wings of birds their songs are hollow

and empty.

 

Walls of people, slacked jawed, bug-eyed, dis-believing hearts

passing by (“Mummy, I wants some candy; “Mummy, I’m thirsty;

“Mummy, can I have some chocolate?; “Mummy, can I have an

ice cream?” The medicated masses.

Emancipation? Lincoln Memorial bathrooms toilets flushing,

sucking and we smell the truth. Walking Mummies! Abe,

could you stand and take a bow?

 

For you both, Jim Waulk and Bill Wood, who passed on unnecessarily for the American Empire. Life on planet has gotten more grim since I paid you both a physical presence last year. I had to bow out this year due to finances and other responsibilities.

Thank you,

Ray W Cage
Vietnam 69-70
Veterans For Peace Life Member


I was a child when so many of you — often kids yourselves — were fighting and dying in Vietnam. Although I was younger than you, I was very much aware that you were fighting an unwinnable war. So many young men and women came home wounded physically and emotionally to a country that had no idea or did not want to care for you. I have spent my life in the pursuit of Human Rights and that includes Veterans. We have failed miserably and you have been used as a political football. I belong Veterans For Peace and Wounded Warriors, and I will spend the rest of my life in the pursuit of all Human Rights. I am deeply humbled at your sacrifice.

Peace and Solidarity
Wendy Carson

It’s Not Over

Dear Visitor to The Wall,

I registered for the draft at age 18, in 1964. When I graduated from college four years later my educational deferments ended but by then I had become a conscientious objector. After my first semester of graduate school and a personal hearing my draft board officially agreed. I had to drop out of graduate school to do two years of civilian alternate service as part of the deal but I was ecstatic with relief that I didn’t have to go through lengthy appeals and maybe even jail time. Through luck and a family connection I got placed as a nursing assistant at the Palo Alto, California Veterans Administration hospital, transferring into surgery as an orderly and technical assistant after several months as a nursing assistant on a surgical ward.

These days some guys my age who had been sent to Vietnam would half-jokingly tell me that I was “smart” for my resistance (and they weren’t).

No, I wasn’t “smart.” For one thing, I was a fatherless misfit, a real problem kid who hated authority figures, and I knew I couldn’t survive taking orders. More importantly, I was privileged. I had gone to a university where I could learn about the injustice, atrocity and absurdity of the war while getting the knowledge and skills to confront the draft and dare to prevail. And here’s the most important part of all: I was embraced by a supportive community of resisters, many far more committed than I, who were ready to take down the whole system.

It took me years to fully realize how monumentally unfair the Vietnam War draft was to working class young men. The first inkling came early when I was still a nursing assistant, working the ward. The great majority of “my” patients were older guys, WW II and Korea vintage, but we also got the serious burn and orthopedic cases from Vietnam who were passed along to us (Vietnam – Hawaii – West Coast), and when these messed-up guys saw me, a male nurse their age, their antennae went up. The discussion didn’t happen often, but the most memorable one went like this:

P (for Patient—picture someone with extensive burns, partial blindness, and missing at least one limb): What are you doing here? Are you a corpsman?

M (for Me): Sort of.

P: “Sort of”? You been to Nam?

M: No, I’m doing this instead.

P: What do you mean, “instead”?

M: I’m a conscientious objector. I wouldn’t go.

[Note: this is where I was sure the interpersonal shit would hit the fan.]

P: Gee, I wish I had known about that.

Yes, “Gee, I wish I had known about that.” Factual note: A similar discussion didn’t go as smoothly, but because my patient was on a gurney and doped up on pre-op meds he dropped out of our encounter when we arrived at the surgical suite entrance.

How can we make everyone know how the draft oppressed men my age, forcing us to make up our minds about the most important decision of our lives? We were all little birdies on that ugly hippo’s back in a crazy dance of fit and unfit, deferred and conscripted, ignored and imprisoned. This is for sure, though: the truly privileged children of the wealthy and powerful had nothing to worry about if they wanted to opt out of taking a stand to either enlist or resist. They had at their disposal deferments and phony medical diagnoses galore.

It’s not over.

The pain and injustice are not in the past, either for my generation or yours. Not by a long shot. Some of those moral empty shells of a human being whose ‘legacy’ bailed them out of the draft have gone on to occupy the highest offices in the land. Despite having flunked their critical ethics test they’re sending our best into harm’s way while draining precious national treasure for endless, meaningless war.

Join us in promising these names on the wall that you will help stop this madness.

Sam Coleman, PhD, MSW
Veterans For Peace Associate Member and
Coordinator, Military Trauma Working Group


Letter For the Wall, Spring 2018

In the fall of 1965 I was a senior in high school. Everyone I knew was taking sides in the ‘war’ building in Southeast Asia, a war that was justified to Americans by citing “The Domino Theory,” referring to the countries that would fall to Communism and lead eventually to our own nation’s fall if the US did not defend a tiny little country called South Viet Nam whose northern region was controlled by a Communist named Ho Chi Min. The US had no experience in fighting a jungle war, but military leaders along with two American Presidents claimed superiority and a quick resolution in our favor. France had failed, but we would have victory.

          As happened in many families at that time, my parents were on opposite sides, and arguments were at times fierce and emotional. My father, a bigoted man, supported the war against Communist North Viet Nam, while my mother, a peacemaker in every area of her life, was opposed on spiritual, religious, moral and political grounds. I listened to both sides, pulled by a belief that my government would not lie to its citizens, but pulled harder by the sight of Buddhist monks on tv in self-immolation protests, by the idea of our men dying on foreign land, by the gathering protests in the US, and by my mother’s honest appraisal of sending American troops to South Vietnam as wrong at every level.

          How could I ascertain the truth? In October I wrote to my uncle and journalist in DC, Rowland Evans, requesting that he find a way for me to get to Vietnam with my camera and  a pad of paper & a pencil on which to record the experiences of our troops on the ground. I didn’t see my preparation for college as more important than a belief that the troops would tell me the truth. Of course, he refused. 

          What else could I do? In February, then 1966, I signed up for a pen pal soldier in South Viet Nam. Through that spring I exchanged letters with CPL William Potts, squad leader of the First Platoon, 2nd Squad Leader Security Branch. He wrote about the combat patrols he led in the region of Da Nang. He wrote about his father and one brother, back home in Alabama. He was alone and lonely, and he believed in his duty to his country. I read the newspapers every day, becoming more fully opposed to the war, but I kept those feelings to myself as I wrote to Bill, knowing my job was to be a friend to a man far away from home. From him I was learning about a war that would have no easy conclusion, and a marine whose tour would end in July. He would come home and that would probably end our brief months of correspondence.

          On July 2, I received a letter composed with unfamiliar handwriting. I took the letter to my third floor bedroom, and sat on the windowsill that looked out onto the tops of several oak trees and one horse chestnut. I looked around my room, at all the comforts of my life, and then out at the sky. As I opened the letter, I feared Bill Potts would look at the sky no more. 

          “Dear Miss Cooke,” the June 26 letter began.  Bill had given his one close friend, L/CPL Art Goodwin, my name and address to write to “if anything happened.” I cannot say I knew Bill well, but my hands shook as I read Art Goodwin’s words that “Bill died last night on a combat patrol just east of Phu-Bai…He was shot twice in the chest and I was there when it happened.” Art then wrote that Bill “has been accounted for more than 16 Viet Cong which is something.”

           I put down the letter. I cupped my hands, as if to hold Bill’s spirit in them, along with the spirits of at least 16 Viet Cong. I didn’t tell anyone about the letter from L/CPL Art Goodwin that day, or for many days to come. I couldn’t find the words.

          July 2, 1966, the day I learned I was a pacifist.

Elizabeth M. Cooke

March 3, 2018


In 1968 I arrived in Vietnam, a grunt, and replaced a killed-in-action young kid in Michael and Danny’s unit. They had both been there for a long time. For reasons I don’t think even Michael and Danny could explain, they took this new guy under their wings and took care of me. I believe they had reached a point where they just could not bear to see another new guy die. So, they tried like hell to teach me how to get through the days and the humps, and how to stay alive — without costing anyone else their lives. About two months into my time there with Michael and Danny, our unit was helicoptered into what turned out to be an hellacious trap. We were in the open and pinned  down, with lots of guys being hit. I got shot in the stomach and knocked onto my back and, as I pieced together later, bleeding to death. One by one, Michael and Danny crawled over to me, climbing on top of me to try and stop the bleeding. One by one both were killed. They must have succeeded, because I was hauled out of there and put on a helicopter. Michael and Danny knew what they were  doing — we were being torn apart, and to even raise your head meant being shot. They did what they did anyway.

Many years later I ended up talking to Danny’s mother on the phone. My dear friends in VFP, Bob Hennel and Thompson Bradley in particular, pushed me to see that it was not my story to keep buried, that Michael and Danny’s families deserved to know what they had chosen to do on their last day. Those talks with Danny’s mother are in my letter to the wall.

“Those Walls,” two walls, are referred to in the letter. One is The Wall in Washington. The other is in Portland, Oregon, with the names of the kids from Oregon killed in Vietnam. Whenever I go to Portland, I visit Michael at that wall.

—Frank Corcoran

* * *

Well, Michael and Danny, I’ve decided to write a “letter to the wall,” which for me means a letter to you. Not really sure that I can do this, you know my track record — my anger being triggered, me trying to tear down these walls with my bare hands…but I am going to give it a good try. These walls — I hate these damn walls — monuments to the senseless waste of America’s rich man’s wars that they are. But where else can I come and talk with you? AND — the promise I made to both of you at the Washington Wall many years ago when I came there for the first time, with my Vets For Peace comrade and dear friend, Thompson Bradley — to have a good life, to be okay being happy, okay being so ridiculously fortunate as I’ve been on my Vietnam vet road. AND — Danny — the promise I made to your mom, on the phone to Greenville, Tennessee (from Philly) — your mom laid it out plain and simple: she did not want to hear about me blaming myself, living my life with guilt and anger. She told me that she was not at all surprised to hear what you had done — that that was you, she said.

Those talks with your mom have stayed with me. I’ve held them, always wanting to believe them, accept them, and live by them. It’s been rocky — there was Reagan, the slaughter of the Iraqis, and now endless war accepted as life. With Veterans For Peace and the amazing, beautiful, committed people in that family, the circle of good friends, my cocoon, that has grown out of Vets For Peace, a long string of opportunities to live my life fully, and now, being with Cherie, which makes me about the luckiest man alive, I’ve done pretty well.

As I write this, Cherie and I are on our way to Portland, Oregon, to celebrate our 5th anniversary. We will visit you there, up on the hill in that lovely park, with your name, Michael, on the Oregon wall there. In the end my friends, Michael and Danny, I have about the sweetest life one could wish for. As my “ace wife” says, “you are living the dream.” And brother is she right!

So here I am, Michael (I will see you soon, Danny, in Washington), in Portland, standing with Cherie at your wall, talking with you. I am not trying to tear this wall down with my own hands (like I’ve tried a few times in the past). I am finding another level of keeping my promise (okay Mrs. Kelly?); another level of seeing what it means to honor your memories and what you gave to me — my life; what you gave up — yours; and a deeper understanding of why I cannot diminish the awesome power and love of what you chose to do that last day. I am here to remember you and thank you in a way I have never been able to — because of the backlash I get from such thoughts. I am taming the backlash. It’s about time, right guys? A great Vietnam vet poet, Steve Mason, wrote:

     You know,
I’ll bet if the families of our brothers
Killed-in-action
Could sign a petition
Charging each combat veteran of Vietnam
To live his life
As if he were living for two,
Half of us would be on the top of the world
By tomorrow afternoon!

—Steve Mason

Well, I am living my life for the three of us. As I write those words, the heartbreak comes — my chest fills up — the tears come — but I am not going to scream and pound my fists this time. I am not. You see, Michael? Danny? Mrs. Kelly? I am there — in the memory — fully — oh my it hurts, hurts my chest — unbearable — overwhelming my senses, my mind, my rage seething — oh how I despise these walls… No. No more rage. Over the years I’ve made these two walls places where I can come to talk with you, talk about my promise to you, talk my way into keeping it, and now pushing that promise further. So, here I am with Cherie, saying that I am freeing myself, step by step, of the guilt and rage so as to best remember you and honor your act of love that last day…and live up to my promise.

If honor is to light the way to his maker
It burns most brightly
When he sacrifices his life
For another.
In that gesture, humanity survives war.
And peace clings
By a desperate finger
To a belt loop
Of the stern, and long-striding history
Of mankind
Marching inexorably
Toward some never-to-be-printed
Final date…..

—Steve Mason

So, Michael and Danny, Danny and Michael, I’ll continue to do what I can do, will keep jumping up and down, pleading “listen to us,” alongside my Veterans For Peace comrades, and Cherie. My life’s commitment is to fight for peace and human dignity. In whatever form this has taken, it has been the three of us. Stories are important. These days, in this country, stories are desperately needed. Stories about truth. Stories that move people and make them think and care. Michael, Danny — you have given me a powerful story to tell. I’ve told your story, my whole life it seems, to whoever will listen. Whatever my contributions have been to this world, telling your story in schools, to young kids ready to be used in the next war, has been the most important. I tell the truth of your story. I get in those classrooms and just do it! I tell the young kids that what you chose to do that day, give up your lives for another, you did not for any country or flag, not for any notion of empty patriotism — but for life. You gave up your lives for life and for love. I tell the kids the truth: you were not war heroes, brave marines, or freedom fighting Americans. You were human beings.

I hope I’ve done you well. Cherie says I have. I’ll go with that.

Okay my friends, adios for now. Cherie and I are going to take a long hike and then hit a few Portland breweries.

Then I’ll get back to our work: speaking the truth about the lies of the glory of war.

Rest in peace Michael and Danny.
Frank and Cherie


Panel 58 E, here are the 11 Marines & one Green Beret I was with 50 years ago today…

Czerwonka, Cook, Heyne, Sargent, McGonigle, King, Mitchell, Fritsch, Blackman, Hempel & Lopez USMC. Miller was the Green Beret.

There is a mass grave for them @ Arlington, Section 60. Please see photo below.

I am in disbelief that part of the Pentagon looks out over Arlington, & yet we continue to have senseless wars ~ they look ~~~ but do not see, what they have created. Heartless.

I began a peace vigil yesterday @ 1:30 (0330 in VN when the Battle of Ngok Tavak began) & will continue until 1:30 today.

I wish Peace & Love to all of the families I met in 2005, of the deceased mentioned above. I have heard from several today. And to all of us survivors of this tragedy ~ whom ~ I am sure, there is not a day goes by without thing of Ngok Tavak…

This is a copy of the email I sent yesterday:

Today, @ 130 I began a peace vigil. {That is 3:30 AM 10 May, in VN.}

My dear daughter suggested I do something different this year at this time ~ so I did. After returning to VN in 1995 my attitude completely changed towards the VN & all people.

Now I thank, instead of hate. No more react to everything with anger, as we were brainwashed to do.

Love to all of you!

I would like to express love & peace to all Vietnamese people, in particular Major Mai & his family. Major Mai was the commanding officer of the NVA that attack us on 10 May. I met him & General Du, in 1995 & went to Ngok Tavak. I will never forget the overwhelming love Mai & I had for each other, hugging & crying ~ together!

Lastly, I apologize for the atrocities we wreaked on each other. Senseless. Then, 27 years later, hugging each other @ the battle site. Life is truly a circle…

May peace & love be experienced by everyone today! Lest we forget…

peaceful warrior
Coyote
Lifetime Member Veterans For Peace

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