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Page 21
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By Ken Sauvage

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One of the first things to amaze me after I got back from Vietnam was the lack of awareness and caring shown by everybody I met of the horror that was taking place in Vietnam. My amazement quickly turned to overwhelming anger. The only people who seemed to be recognizing and verbalizing the horror were people in the antiwar movement. These are the people I sought out. I did not at this time, however, join VVAW. In retrospect, I think this was because, after getting out, my strongest impulse was to try to get as far away from the pain as possible. I didn't talk about Vietnam, didn't think about Vietnam, and (with the help of lots of cheap vodka) did my best not to dream about Vietnam. Deny, deny, deny.

I officially joined VVAW in the late Seventies in time for the arms race that was heating up and the inadequate Agent Orange settlement.

I now belong to four different veterans' organizations, each for different reasons. I currently work to assist veterans and I need the contacts in the official veteran community. VVAW, though, is the only one with which I am politically, spiritually, and personally aligned. Despite the good people involved, the rhetoric coming out of the "mainstream" veterans organizations is hard to take: flag amendments, continuing the arms race, the innate right to own an assault weapon, opposition to normalizing relations with Vietnam.

VVAW's commitment to social justice, its caring for veterans and all other people, its recognition of the never-ending impact of war upon those people touched by its trauma, its watchdog voice calling for the remembrance of the horror of war as this country continues to involve itself militarily all over the world, is a breath of fresh air -- a contact with sanity.

Even though I have been back from Vietnam for twenty-six years (and it has been twenty years since the war was officially "over"), the lessons learned and the wisdom gained from that experience, currently organized as VVAW, will always be valid and needed.

Ken Sauvage is a long-time member of Chicago VVAW. He lives in Northern, IL and works with Vet Services. He's aVietnam Veteran.

<< 20. Out of the Canadian Blue22. TOM HANLEY >>