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We Must Continue the Fight for a Better World!
By Bill Branson
From the VVAW National Office
VVAW clearly sees a future for itself. As veterans of the military, as veterans of Vietnam, we will fight to see that the Peace Agreement is fully implemented, without US interference. As hard as the Vietnamese fought against us as we burned down their homes, we will fight for our goals. It is our obligation! We will fight for our own rights here in our backyards; the right to health, peace, and freedom. We will fight to help our brothers and sisters whose lives are made miserable by ignorance and greed. – VVAW National Collective, Winter Soldier April 1973.
Fifty-three years ago when Jan Barry and other vets first marched under the Vietnam Veterans Against the War banner, they directed our demands to end the war at President Johnson.
Fifty years ago, when Nixon began his illegal invasion of Cambodia, the government response to the massive protests led to the slayings of students at Kent and Jackson States. We directed our anger and demands to end the war at what we knew would be the worst president in our lifetimes. The May 4th killings motivated many Vietnam vets to join VVAW. It was a catalyst for growth and greater activism.
Nineteen years ago, when George W. Bush started the war in Afghanistan, we said enough, never again. Seventeen years ago, when Jr. Bush invaded Iraq, we knew that president had surpassed Nixon as the worst president in our lifetimes, if not in the history of the US.
Then, that dark day in November, 2016 really lowered the bar. In every single aspect, Chump has proven that he is not fit for office. The litany of "greatest hits" keep on coming. The bungling of this administration is unprecedented. The mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic alone could earn him his place at the top of the worst.
These are dark times. We know they are. Our generation is now among the targets of this president.
No matter what some of us have felt over the past five decades, the current administration proves that elections matter. We cannot let the pandemic halt or hinder the elections! We already know some states are purging voters and elections are being postponed or canceled. We must push for early and mail-in voting for all states.
We cannot let this fool destroy the United States Post Office. Many of us made our careers in the Post Office after we fought to stop our war. If the Post Office is de-funded and crippled, how will mail-in voting take place? This attack on the PO is not by chance.
We also cannot let this public health crisis be used as an excuse to gut the VA. In fact, if fully staffed and not attacked, the VA could be a leader in treating and helping to find a vaccine for the current pandemic. The importance of public health is clear now more than ever.
Past struggles can provide lessons for the future. We built on experience from anti-war veterans in the original Veterans for Peace and the Abraham Lincoln Brigades. We took lessons from the social movements of our day - civil rights, Women's rights, Black Power, Chicano power, etc.
1970 and 1971 were key years in the history of VVAW. They seemed like the darkest times. But in response, we came up with Operation RAW, the Winter Soldier Investigation, Dewey Canyon III, and countless other actions to highlight the injustices of the war being fought in our names.
Fifty years ago we started a national newspaper to let people across the country (and in Vietnam) know what we were about. From the First Casualty to Winter Soldier to The Veteran you hold in your hands today, we still believe in the importance of providing a voice for our struggle for peace, justice, and veterans' rights. Our national newspaper provides us a platform to share our history, our views, and our strategies with those who can learn from our mistakes and victories and take the struggle to the next level.
This current administration and the pandemic we are living through highlights the fact that we are a global entity that must work together. Stop the wars. Stop the sanctions. Remove the current administration.
All of us, vets and non-vets, whites and non-whites, workers and students, everybody, must continue to unite to solve the problems that the American system has failed to solve. No one will help us. The people must solve their problems and not rely on the benevolence of big-time politicians or large corporations. The power to solve these problems is ours. We have but to take it.– VVAW National Collective, Winter Soldier April 1973.
Bill Branson is a member of the VVAW Board.
July 4, 1974 in Washington, DC.
Thanks to Jeff Danziger, Billy Curmano, and Eric J. Garcia for their cartoons. Thanks to Chuck Theusch, Billy Curmano, Paul Nichols, Laurel Krause, Jack Mallory, Allan Meece, and others for contributing photos.