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Local doctor reflects on Vietnam War

Published on: October 11, 2017

Filed Under: Burns/Novick, Featured

Views: 217

This article originally appeared at thenewmexican.com.

By Phaedra Haywood | The New Mexican.

 

My Olympics were in a hot

dirty

wild place called Vietnam.

The crowds were screaming monkeys

screeching insects

and vegetable indifference.

The judging was hostile

severe

and final as death.

So begins The Smell of Blood, a book of poems by Santa Fe physician Ken Stewart about his experiences as a U.S. Army Green Beret who fought on the Cambodian border during the Vietnam War.

Stewart — who went to medical school after the war and spent the next 25 years working in the emergency room at the Gallup Indian Medical Center — is one of six panelists scheduled to share their stories during “Voices from Santa Fe and the Viet Nam Experience,” an upcoming discussion organized by the local chapter of an international group called Veterans for Peace.

“Veterans for Peace is dedicated to educating people about our experiences and alternatives to military aggression and trying to help those in search of healing,” said Daniel Craig, president of the Santa Fe chapter of the group. “We are always doing events trying to raise the consciousness in the local community about the costs of war being the first choice as opposed to diplomacy.”

Craig said the jumping-off point of the discussion will be the recent 10-part, 18-hour documentary on the war that recently aired on PBS. The acclaimed series, entitled The Vietnam War, was directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

“We’ll be talking about the film, but I’m sure a broader discussion is going to be generated, given that we really haven’t recovered from Vietnam more than 40 years later,” said Craig, himself a Gulf War Army combat veteran.

In addition to Stewart, the panel will include three other veterans: Raphiel Benjamin, a former Army doctor [and chairman of The Vietnam Project, a nonprofit that provides assistance to the disadvantaged in Vietnam]; Tim Oringer, a Marine who was awarded a Purple Heart after losing a leg in Vietnam in 1968; and Tom McGuffy, a Marine helicopter pilot who also received a Purple Heart.

To balance the discussion, Craig said, he also recruited two anti-war activists: Charlotte Cooke, who protested the war in Berkeley , Calif., and Washington, D.C., and Jeffrey Less, a retired attorney who protested on the East Coast.

The discussion will be mediated by Lucy Moore, a Santa Fe facilitator and mediator whose husband is a Vietnam combat veteran.

Craig said that in addition to talking about the film, panelists will take questions from the audience.

The free event is scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15, at The Center for Progress and Justice, 1420 Cerrillos Road, in Santa Fe.

Contact Phaedra Haywood at 505-986-3068 or phaywood@sfnewmexican.com. Follow her on Twitter @phaedraann.

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