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Memories of Ann Bailey
By John Zutz
I met Bailey (and John Lindquist) for the first time in the spring of 1972. I was working as a nursing assistant at the Madison, Wisconsin VA Hospital (later named for William S. Middleton [he was still working there in '72]). There were many Vietnam vets working at the hospital, in many capacities as vets could get hired without any tests, etc.
I had participated in a number of anti-war protests after my Army discharge and somewhere I heard about a protest organized by veterans in Stevens Point, about a three-hour drive north of Madison. I had a car and I was interested in meeting other anti-war vets, so I recruited a co-worker and we traveled north.
The protest took place on the campus of the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. There was a march, organized by Lindquist. Inside one of the buildings was Bailey, "manning" an education table with VVAW information available.
The table also included a 16mm film projector showing a film (I think it was Winter Soldier). I had read about the hearings, but seeing the faces and hearing the voices was still a shock.
I signed up for the mailing list and went on my way.
I never got involved with VVAW because one of the first mailings was a newsletter. Splashed across the front page was the headline, "Don't Join VVAW." With the explanation that the organization had been infiltrated by the FBI and membership lists were compromised. I felt my federal job would be in jeopardy so I never formally joined and I never connected with the Madison Chapter.
The next time I saw Bailey was ten years later, in 1982.
I was recuperating after surgery at the Milwaukee VA which removed a large tumor and half of my colon. I had read a little about that "Agent Orange" stuff, and that it could cause cancer. So, I was looking for information. Could Agent Orange be the cause of my cancer? The doctors at the VA would tell me nothing. I looked here, and I asked there. Nothing. Finally, I stopped at the Milwaukee Vet Center. One of the counselors referred me to VVAW. He gave me an address and I made contact.
And there was Bailey. Who could forget that face? And that voice?
She was working with Muriel Hogan on the information for the Agent Orange Dossier. Just what I was looking for. I pitched in and helped with the layout and carried the finished product to the printer, and back.
I met other members and became active in the chapter. I drove Bailey to Chicago and sat in on the meeting with the lawyer representing us (and ultimately selling us out) in the Agent Orange lawsuit. By that time the fights with the VA were down to a simmer. After a while, the biggest activity was the July 4 campout.
Which leads me into the story of what may be Bailey's most (in)famous act.
Today people would call the campout a retreat, and it was therapeutic. Veterans came from all over, the east coast, the west coast, the south, the north. The campground was a safe place (with a few exceptions), where guys could talk smart, act dumb, and still be supported by the community. There were instances of overindulgence, occasionally someone would fall into the fire, but usually, the effects were dissipated after a few hours of sleep.
Hidden down in the dell, the communal kitchen was the women's domain. Bailey was the Sergeant Major. She made things work, and she was used to having her orders followed. As the years passed, the kids got older and less respectful. On this occasion, they were running around, acting wild. She tried to slow them down without them even noticing. She decided that she was going to get their attention.
We were cooking a pig on a spit, so she gathered all the kids together and proclaimed that she was going to eat the eyeball. Of course, nobody believed her, but as the cooking progressed she kept a close watch.
As we were cutting the roasted pig she gathered the kids around once more. She demanded the eyeball and popped it into her mouth. As the kids gasped in disbelief, there were some of the older ones who suspected some sleight of hand. They wanted to see it. So, she stuck out her tongue, which was wearing the eyeball like a glove, with the iris to the front. It looked like the eye was peering out of her mouth.
I don't know if the kids behaved any better, but she had their attention. Years later I ran into one of those kids in a work situation. He still remembers that day clearly.
John Zutz is a Milwaukee VVAW member.
Annie at VVAW campout in 1985.