The War At Home
By Nick Medvecky
We all have stories of suffering abuse for our political commitments. One of mine was going to visit my Uncle Jack who was the Commander of a VFW Post in Florida. Uncle Jack was a 22 plus year veteran of the Navy, a Senior Chief Petty Officer, who died from Agent Orange exposure not many years after his retirement. When I went to the VFW Post to visit him, he wasn't in yet. I expressed my desire to wait and ordered a beer. Asked for my membership, I produced my VVAW card, as different organizations usually honor other groups. I was refused service and told, "We don't recognize you guys; members here performed honorable service." I left. While I hold no animosity, I never make the mistake of confusing politics and service.
Drs. Benjamin Spock and King leading
April 15th, 1967 anti-war march.
I'm a Vietnam-era vet member of VVAW. My own service was in the 101st Airborne at Ft. Campbell, KY, from 1959 thru 1961. The division commander was William C. Westmoreland. Even then, American servicemen were dying in Vietnam. We all know The Wall Memorial in Washington DC journeys from 1959 thru 1975.
I was an anti-war vet before VVAW was formed and I was the Chairman of the Detroit Committee to End the War in Vietnam. One of the significant programs we initiated was to send letters of support along with anti-war literature (who we are and why we oppose the war) to GIs in Vietnam. We perceived the need at the time to educate the anti-war movement on the clear differences between the war and the warrior, and the need to communicate that reality to our comrades in Vietnam and returning veterans. That program was eminently successful.
In early 1967, Vietnam vet Carl Campbell and I founded the Veterans Against the War (VAW) in Detroit. On April the 15th, 1967, we traveled to New York City to march with some 600,000 protestors from Sheep Meadow in Central Park to the UN Plaza. Among the notables at the front of that mass demonstration was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Behind Dr. King were military veterans led by six Vietnam veterans carrying their own sign, Vietnam Veterans Against the War. That event marked the first time that Dr. King had joined civil rights to the anti-war movement. It was also the first occasion of Vietnam vets formally joining the movement in their own name.
By June 1st, 1967, Jan Barry Crumb and several other Vietnam vets from that April protest met to create VVAW.
Meanwhile, back in Detroit, we came to the conclusion that future mass movement demonstrations would be best served if they were led on point by Vietnam veterans. On July 20th, 1967, I traveled to the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago and met with some other vet leaders from around the nation. We discussed a national strategy to engage Vietnam vets to protest the war. The rest is history.
As it turned out, on July 22nd I got a call from Detroit to return home immediately as mass rebellion (the so-called Detroit riots) had broken out. As the 45-minute flight circled over Metro-Wayne Airport, we could all see massive columns of smoke rising straight into the hot July air and hitting a temp-inverse layer at about 5,000 feet, forming a cathedral-like ceiling over the city.
The war had come home.
June I'll be 70. Raised in NY. 101st Airborne 1959-61. Civil rights, antiwar and human rights 1961-present. BS in Psych WSU, Detroit; Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) California Southern University. Private pilot. Journalism and Criminal Defense Investigations 1969-89 (Beirut 1969-71). Chain-gang TN 1964-65. Federal prison 1989-2011. Current: Retired/blogger at AmericanTribune.org.