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Recollections: Nearly 50 Years as a Member of VVAW
By Mike Woloshin
It has been nearly 50 years since I joined VVAW. Here is the timeline: I got the "Early Out" from the Navy on March 1, 1971. A week later, the "Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI" burglarized the Media, PA. FBI office, during the night of the Ali-Frazier "Fight of the Century," revealing COINTELPRO. It took the 1975-76 Senate Church Committee to reveal the scope of FBI surveillance and suppression of anti-war dissent. The details of the burglary were revealed in Betty Medsger's book The Burglary: The Discovery of J.Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI (2014). On June 13, 1971, the Washington Post began publication of The Pentagon Papers, revealing that the real history of the war, including diplomatic duplicity, from Truman to Nixon, was hidden from the public.
In the months before I got out, I was TAD to AMD (Aircraft Maintenance Division, NAS Celil Field, FL.) See my Brainwashing Busts Out at NAS Cecil Field in The Veteran, Fall/Winter 1999. While TAD, I received an order to attend an Awards Ceremony at the Base Theater, where my Squadron Division Officer was to be awarded an Air Medal for hitting a truck on the Ho Chi Minh Trail during our recent Westpac Cruise, September 3, 1969- July 1, 1970. I had better use of my time than to watch that obnoxious moron receive a medal, but I had no choice. I thought I saw him later as a pilot for the now defunct Midway Airlines, when I flew to DC a few days before Veterans' Day, 1982 for dedication of the wall.
I used to watch an occasional first run flick at the Base Theater, but after a day of work resented having to stand for the National Anthem before the flick began. As a joke, I began to yell "Play Ball" after the lights went down, before the flick began. The "Flies (Lifers, because they ate shit and bothered people)" ignored it until it began to draw laughs. On occasion, they demanded that whoever yelled (me), step forward and when I didn't, threatened to close the Theater and end the flicks. I suppose that if they had played the Jimi Hendrix Woodstock rendition, I would have shown some respect.
I did other things to piss off the Flies, such as writing "Free The Chicago Seven," rather than just "Free" on my outgoing mail during the cruise and having a "don't give a shit attitude" about Uncle Sam's Canoe Club, a.k.a the world's second largest nuclear Navy, or the war. Back at Cecil Field, I made a stencil for civilian protesters with the words, "the war" and a five pointed star, thus allowing turning Jacksonville Stop signs into "Stop the War" signs and red topped US Mailboxes into NLF flags.
On becoming a civilian, I spent the first few months stoned and then in the summer, took two courses at Wright College of the City Colleges of Chicago. In September, I enrolled full time, meeting Chris, Danny and a former Air Force Medic, whose name I can't recall, becoming one fourth of the Wright College Chapter of VVAW. We met in empty classrooms as the College wouldn't recognize us as a campus organization, and when Chris dropped out, the Chapter dissolved. I was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, the Honors Fraternity of Community Colleges and completed my Associates degree. Then I transferred to the University of Illinois and completed my BA at the end of 1974. Later I completed my Law Degree and worked as an Assistant Public Defender for Cook County until retiring.
I was invited back into VVAW by the late Bill Davis in 1980 and was then saddened to see him pass away September 4, 2007 after the 40th Anniversary, followed by Dave Cline, 10 days later. We had lost our best organizers and leadership. I missed the 50th Anniversary, nearly 4 years ago, but if my health holds out, I hope to be around for the 60th in 2027.
Mike Woloshin, AMH-2, USN, ATKRON 86, onbd USS Coral Sea (CVA-43), Vietnam (Yankee Station) 1969-1970.