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Page 16
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Marching on DC, January 27

By Amy Meyers

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United for Peace and Justice sponsored an anti-war demonstration at the steps of the capital in Washington DC; just in time for the president's formal announcement of troop escalation in the war on Iraq. The "surge" (coined word today for 60's word "escalation") includes 21,500 more troops, most going to Baghdad, and extends Army and Marine tours by a few months each. As of March 2007, the escalation has already surpassed the stated amount and has reached upwards of 30,000 additional troops.

This article provides experiences from one day in the streets of DC. Offering perspectives from longtime members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and my own, as a younger supporting member.

Jim Murphy, Bruce Hyland, Barry Romo and Marty Webster

The GI anti-war movement is one of the most admirable, noble and important factors and historical lessons of war. In the midst of an unplanned reunion, this demonstration provoked generations of anti-war veterans to participate. What does it feel like to be marching in Washington 40 years later, with comrades 40 years older, based on your son's/daughter's generation's war with eerie similarities to your own?

"I haven't gone to Washington DC to demonstrate in more than 20 years, but I could feel both from people here and around the country, that things were moving. And so even though I had to fly in and out, I really wanted to make this demonstration and I wasn't disappointed," said Barry Romo of Chicago VVAW.

As an outsider looking in, I tried to imagine what it was like then and how it must feel now. Observing a friend from afar, a young, innocent, vulnerable human; I saw VVAW 40 years ago. I wasn't even alive then. That war was before my time. Watching their interactions, as if a part of his heart was reaching out to hear and be heard. My eyes tear, seeing him smile amongst his comrades and newest/oldest friends, watching him stand in silence amongst chaos, in solidarity with his brothers and sisters; thinking on his life, his stories, his impact, his willingness, his strength, his pains and his fears. Him, them, tens, hundreds, thousands I felt these faceless reflections of stolen years and lives. I was standing with VVAW watching IVAW, feeling the same tide of emotions, shared anguish, from the older to the younger and back again. Their age, their era, their war, their understanding, their truth, their words, their discomfort - them finding a home of belonging and solace with the likes of each other.

"The size and appearance of the crowd rivaled what I saw in the early 70's when I was serving active duty at Fort Myer Arlington…It was good to see some old VVAW show up…the Iraq Vet's did well with their group," said Bruce Hyland of Indiana VVAW. Barry added, "The VVAW contingent was mainly from the Midwest and East coast; I saw people I haven't seen in 30 years! And beyond VVAW the fact that there were active-duty GIs, and that the march was led by IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War), only reinforces how deep that the antiwar movement has gone…often the media tries to claim that we speak for no-one, in fact we speak for 65% of the country!"

Following the march VVAW and IVAW members joined in a post-demonstration party. This provided an opportunity to sit down together, rap and rejuvenate, to continue the fight to end another bloody war.

Later in the evening, a few of us made a visit to the Wall. I walked alone trying to organize the storm of emotion. A long, cold, dark walk, I couldn't read the names; I couldn't remember the start or see the end. As the wall became more visibly narrow, reaching the last name scribed, I touched it with all the feeling of the world in my finger tips, eyes closed, completely unaware of who it belonged to…encompassing thousands of faces and stories in one life-changing touch of etched stone. Aware of the affliction it brought me, I wept inside for what it must present to others.

According to Bruce, "the late night visit to the Wall was quite interesting. The chance meeting of the three college student's who belonged to NOW…speaking with Barry about the memorial and the Vietnam War…probably not totally realizing who they were listening to." Nonetheless Barry did a wonderful job of providing historical context…from a personal point of view. I always take the time to look and touch the names I have connection with. This trip, viewing the Wall with a Vietnam Vet I found myself in a new emotional situation. He stood in front of and indicated the panel his nephew is located on, but he has never been able to look at the name. When he told me, I found myself unable to look also...some kind of emotional pain sharing."

Amy Meyers is a member of the Chicago chapter of VVAW, the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism and
the Chicago Coalition Opposed to Militarization of Youth.

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