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Here We Grow Again - Camarillo, California
By Marty Webster
It is really a privilege to introduce our newest contact – Steve Crandall from Camarillo, California. After he graduated from Troy High School, Fullerton, California in 1967 he joined the Air Force in 1968. In 1970, Steve volunteered for Vietnam and served as a weapons loader on F-4s at Cam Ranh Bay for two months and then in Danang for ten months.
Steve became an Iraq anti-war supporter when he and his wife Carolyn marched in the January 2003 Los Angeles anti-war rally carrying a banner which read "Been There Done That" and "War is Only a Friend to the Undertaker" – "Vietnam Veteran." During the rally he was singled out and interviewed by KPFK 90.7 radio station. Steve voiced his opinion that we were repeating history, that the administration lied to us then and they are lying to us now.
Since he has become a Southern California contact for VVAW, Steve has become aware of the large number of phone call and emails VVAW receives from veterans looking for help to obtain benefits, discharge information, PTSD issues and legal assistance. There are also many inquires from students looking for information about the effects of war on the troops.
Steve Crandall and Bill Hammaker, 98-year-old World War II CO
"There are some veterans groups and individuals that think we should have stayed in Vietnam until the job was done - sound familiar?" Steve said. "They say they stand tall for America but in a threatening and twisted way," he noted. Steve did his homework. He did some research and asked questions about VVAW before he joined, and in this process, he found he had a choice to just be a member of the group, or, he could get involved. He chose to get involved.
On Saturday, March 17, Steve proudly represented VVAW publicly for the first time at a march in Ventura, California. Approximately 300 people took part in the march. There was lots of support from the public, honking horns, cheers and peace signs. The theme was "Stop the Funding – End the War." It was sponsored by the Peace Coalition of Greater Ventura. Steve marched up front with the president of the Ventura Chapter of the Veterans For Peace. There was also representation from the Green Party. Steve pushed Carl Smith in a wheel chair. Carl suffers from MS thought to be brought on by Agent Orange. The march in Ventura went without incident. There was one man who had a t-shirt that said "Dog Soldiers" on it. According to Steve, he shadowed the march the whole distance. He saw him at the park where the march ended at the "Iraq Wall" with names and pictures. He was staring at the wall and seemed to be getting angry. Steve thought it would be best to try to open a dialog with him. His son is in Iraq and asked if they had permission from the families to post the names and pictures. He told him probably not but the information is available publicly on websites. The man said if he ever saw his son's name and picture on the "wall" he would destroy it. Then he left. "Maybe the reason he left so abruptly was that he just wanted someone to know why he was there," Steve wondered.
Steve said his mission is to support veterans in whatever way he can and spread the word about the devastating effects of war, just or unjust. In the short time he has been a VVAW contact, he has been able to help a couple of students with their reports about war by letting them know how the Vietnam War has effected him. He feels it is our responsibility as veteran "gray hairs" to teach the youth and hopefully they will make the right decisions.
"I never regretted going to Vietnam," Steve said, "but becoming involved in VVAW has brought forth a whole new way of looking at the effects of war, and has created a whole new group of friends. Friends that share a common goal of helping other veterans and trying to put an end to senseless wars. Get involved and you might find the risks very rewarding."
Welcome Home Steve and welcome to the VVAW family!
Steve is also an executive board member of the Democratic Club of Camarillo, Chairs the Veteran's Committee and writes a column in the club newsletter called the "Veterans' Corner." His wife, Carolyn, is the Vice President of the club and editor of the club newsletter. They were both elected as delegates to the 37th Democratic Assembly District.
Marty Webster is the National Organizing Secretary for VVAW