Veterans’ Statements about October 7

Jay Wenk, World War II combat infantry veteran:

I’m a veteran, and a citizen, and I’m damned if I’m going to let a puny mayor and his police  tell me when I can respectfully observe a memorial to veterans who have been killed in a war created with lies, a war that allowed that mayor and those police to live and prosper, and to ignore what a “Grateful Nation” owes to its veterans, and its people.

 

Dud Hendrick, U.S. Naval Academy, Viet Nam Veteran, USAF, 1963-1967

I have read and re-read the statements made by my fellow veterans. Their passion has reinforced and fueled my own and I am reminded, as many have said, that I have no choice but to be in NYC on October 7, standing in solidarity in objection to what our country has done and continues to do around the globe.

I, too, am a Viet Nam veteran who volunteered to serve there for specious reasons. My awakening came late which has made me all the more deeply committed to demand accountability–of myself, but also, of our leaders who take us toward more violence and militarism.

Those of us who will be in New York City object to the 10 p.m. closing of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza, a closure that clearly symbolizes the blatant forsaking of veterans and other victims of war.  But, on a grander scale we will be continuing our campaign, per the Veterans For Peace Statement of Purpose, to abolish war as an instrument of national policy.

 

Kenneth Mayers, Major USMCR (Ret’d), Veterans For Peace, Santa Fe:

I will join my brothers and sisters at the New York City Vietnam Veterans Memorial on October 7 because I have three beautiful granddaughters who deserve to live in a better nation and on a healthier planet than the one which appears to be their destiny if we do not achieve that “revolution of the spirit” to which Martin Luther King Jr. called us 45 years ago. We gather on October 7  to remember and mourn our government’s past follies and those who have paid the ultimate price for them, but even more important to demand an end to present policies of domination and exploitation, both at home and abroad.

 

Mike Ferner, Navy Corpsman 1969-1973; Past President, Veterans For Peace:

I’m coming to NYC October 7 because I need to do more for myself and the world than just get angry at the misery and suffering.  Being with my comrades again and standing up for peace uplifts my spirit and makes me feel good.

Historian and VFP member, Howard Zinn, helps us keep it all in perspective: “… human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. … What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives.  If we remember those times and places where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act and (not just) wait for some grand utopian future.  The future is an infinite succession of presents and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

At the Vietnam Memorial, we veterans have something important to say for ourselves, for those who have died in war and for future generations.

 

Rt. Rev. George E. Packard, Retired, Bishop for the Armed Forces of the Episcopal Church

I will be privileged to stand with sisters and brothers against any further involvement in Afghanistan on October 7. A true conscience can advise nothing else. How can we, as Americans and compassionate human beings, tolerate even one more day creating a toxic battle environment in that southwest Asian country? We increase the lethality of our weaponry—more drones, more firepower—so we can protect our troops and not face the bad news of casualties at home. But it is a useless scheme and one that sacrifices the lives primarily of Afghani women and children, the real collateral damage. Also, this destruction becomes latent in our culture as the postponed agony of PTSD in thousands of troops extends to their immediate families in the United States. Entire segments of our population are sentenced to living addicted or arrested lives because we weren’t wise enough to figure out a more humane and effective foreign policy.

Stand with us at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza on October 7.  How can you do anything else?

Ellen Barfield, Heavy Equipment Mechanic Sergeant, U.S. Army, 1977-1981:

I will certainly be at the New York City Vietnam Veterans Memorial on 7 October to speak out on the day the 12th (!!) year of the U.S. war on Afghanistan begins. I will mourn the New York U.S. soldiers dead from Viet Nam whose names are there on that wall, and the thousands of U.S. and other soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in these more recent wars, and the millions of civilians who were killed in Viet Nam and Iraq and Afghanistan. But I will also express my/our right to visit memorials and speak out against wars at any time of the day or night. Sadly, war trauma does not sleep, so setting arbitrary curfews at war memorials is cruel and unjust. We will object with our bodies to the repression of mourning and dissent.

 

Erik Lobo, Navy veteran:

I will be at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial because the oath I took–both in the Navy and during 28 years in law enforcement–”…to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” does not have an expiration date. All I have done since I joined the American Indian Movement in 1970 has been in support of seeking 3 things: Accountability, Justice and Peace. I dedicate all I do to those who have graced my life with their wisdom, courage, honor and friendship. For them I take my stand. I have spoken.

 

David Ross, Viet Nam veteran:

Two tours Viet Nam, medic, 1st Infantry: what I saw I did. Once again I will be honored to stand with my sisters and brothers and our friends regardless of the inconvenience. I owe this and, looking back over 40 years of veteran organizing, the need to take a stand has never been greater. Committed…

 

Tarak Kauff, U.S. Army, 1959-1962:

I didn’t go to Viet Nam in my body, I went there in my soul. I spent three-and-a-half years in the Army Airborne Infantry and got out in 1962. After my discharge, as the war got going and my friends were sent there, I raged against it. That war scarred me. Sometimes I can’t help it, I just break down and cry when looking at pictures or reading accounts from combat vets who underwent that horror. I still grieve for the millions of Viet Namese people who suffered from that war and its lingering effects–tons of Agent Orange still affecting those not even born yet, thousands of undetonated bombs and anti-personnel mines that keep exploding, maiming children and others. My sympathy is with all of us affected by war–the young combat troops, those who didn’t come back and those who did, wounded and discouraged from fighting a war that brought money and power to other people sitting in comfort back here, the Vietnamese soldiers defending their country, the damage to the American soul, and the children who grow up here in the United States with a legacy of permanent war.

I have a fury inside me against war and those rich fat cats who perpetrate wars and militarism. Yes, I take it personally. Now there is Afghanistan and other U.S. wars for profit and power. These wars that are not about defending freedom or democracy. They have nothing to do with that–just the opposite. The top-down leaders, the corporate warlords, the politicians, “Masters of War” don’t give a damn about freedom and democracy, about the lives and money going from the poor and middle class to fight and pay for these wars.

They and their kids don’t fight, die and come home wounded in body and soul from them. No, these bastards make fortunes selling weapons while destroying the world. It pains and angers me deeply, and I wish I could stop it.

On October 7, while grieving for, remembering and respecting the fallen, I will take a stand for my and others’ right to peacefully and nonviolently affirm this whenever and wherever we want to, especially at this hallowed place, where memories and reminders of the futility of war never cease, not at 10 p.m., not at any time.

 

William P. Homans, aka Watermelon Slim, Viet Nam veteran, VVAW/OSS co-coordinator:

I will be returning to the New York Vietnam Memorial to play Taps. It will be the second time I have done so there. The first time I was alone, on a bitterly cold late-fall day back in 2002.

I am a professional touring musician, and I have made the mourning of our fallen soldiers–and the fallen in all the other nations I have visited whose soldiers’ blood has been shed in U.S. wars (Norway, Denmark, England, Canada–in particular Canada, which nation has given more lives per capita of deployment than the U.S. has in Afghanistan)–part of my shows since the first Canadian combat death since the Korean War, back in 2005 in Afghanistan. I was in New Brunswick, and you may take it from me that Canadians feel every single death their countrymen suffer in a war that isn’t even their war. One thing ALL Americans can agree on, even Tea Partiers, is that these men and women deserve our mourning.

I will also be there because the American right to dissent from “business as usual” is at risk. I was in the anti-Viet Nam War movement back in the early ’70s when I returned from Viet Nam, and I never considered the absolute right to speak and dissent to be threatened, regardless that the press routinely played down or deleted what we did. It would get through, usually, because in the 1960s/70s, the press was not so completely an “embedded” corporate lap dog. Yep, they done gone to bed, all right!

But mostly I will be there to mourn. The first time I visited the New York Memorial I learned the name of the youngest soldier to die in combat in Viet Nam. His name was Bullock, obviously a big kid for his age, who entered the Army under false pretenses, was trained, deployed and killed in action. He was 15 years old. What an idealistic WASTE of life. God rest him.

One student from my high school was killed in ‘Nam. He was one of only four of us who went there. My high school was a so-called college preparatory school (they used to call ‘em “prep schools”). But David went right from HS to the Army, and within a year (in 1968) he was dead. I will be remembering David Acton too.

 

Will Thomas, New Hampshire VFP:

Why am I going to NYC on October 7?

  • to stand with my Veterans For Peace and Veterans Peace Team brothers and sisters, who together will stand up to the fascist authority of the state, whether that be the NYPD, the mayor of New York, or any feds, and, if need be, to accept arrest in a massive, nonviolent civil resistance action against those city, state, and federal authorities who obediently serve the interests of those in “power.”
  • to remember, to commemorate all those, both civilian and military who have been maimed or killed in the many illegal, immoral, and unjust wars waged by the United States and its “allies,” such as NATO
  • to say, by resisting war and violence, that these millions of people whose lives were taken from them by various “authorities” will be remembered by us, the living, as we strive to prevent further destruction and killing by invoking their names and memories by challenging (the) power structure

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it well:

“But there are some things in our social system to which all of us ought to be maladjusted …. I never intend to become adjusted to the madness of militarism and the self-defeating method of physical violence.”

 

John Spitzberg, Ashville VFP:

I speak for those who have died and for those who are so infirm that they are unable to come to New York on October 7. We are the living and able who rally for you so that your voices are heard and are not in vain. We come to say “Enough of this travesty of mindless war, mindless mayhem and devastation. Enough of death from the skies and seas without I, thou relationship. Give us peace and mindfulness. Let our elders and children wherever they may be in the world live in peace and security.” As Chief Joseph said, “I will fight war no more! Let us live as humanity who lie down in peace and say ‘Never Again.’” For this I will be in New York and stand beside my fellow Veterans Peace Team members as a real patriot for Peace and Life.

Mike Tork, U.S. Navy Viet Nam veteran:

We do not accept the arbitrary 10 p.m. closing time of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in New York City as legal, and we will challenge it. The reason this is so important is because we are seeing this tamping down of our rights more and more. Heavier penalties, longer periods in jail, stiffer bails, threats of brutality from a militarized police force, intimidation, the list goes on. There is a real reason for that. The few in control absolutely do not want us coming together to organize. They fear that more than anything because they know if we do, the party is over. If everyone took to the streets it would be done. There would be nothing the 1% could do. That is why they are trying to stop it from happening, either through intimidation or illegal actions.

Being able to peaceably assemble to petition the government for a redress of grievances is crucial. We have to stand up for our right to do that. We may as well draw that line in the sand now, because it will eventually come to that. If we can’t assemble, then we can’t organize. If we can’t organize, we can’t win. We have to help provide the courage so that others will stand up as well.”

Paul Appell, U.S. Army, Viet Nam veteran:

The following are some personal reasons that I will be at the Memorial:

I want to be with Hope’s two beautiful daughters that St. Augustine described: Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.

As Auden wrote in one of his poems, I want to keep the enduring flame of hope alive.

Dr. King told John Carlos that he was going back to Memphis despite threats on his life because “I have to go back and stand for those that won’t stand for themselves, and I have to go back for those that can’t stand for themselves.”

I have some friends that were killed in Viet Nam that I knew well enough to know that they would want me to stand for them. I want to disrupt the collective unknowing of war by refusing to be the good little boy and be out of sight, out of mind. We may be few, but I truly feel we stand for many that won’t stand for themselves because of fear, ignorance, finance, family, employment restrictions, health and other reasons.