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On the Road to Miami
By Pat Finnegan
August 14, 2015
Thanks to you guys and your pursuit of the various Agent Orange issues, I now live on the VA dime and SS disability payments, plus my 30-year $25,000/yr with a COLA increase built in State pension.
I'm a big tipper—usually 30% or better. I tell people that this tip is as close as they are gonna get to the Reagan "Trickle Down Theory."
I'm 65 now and had my first but undocumented heart attack at 39-41—my first documented heart attack at 42.
The only people in the ICUs I was in and the rehab afterward near my age were all Combat VN Vets.
Not to say that the heart attacks came from combat, though being in combat didn't help the vascular system.
Being in combat in Vietnam made it more likely for you to be exposed to the potentially harmful effects of Agent Orange, Blue, White Purple, etc., which was sprayed heavily in the Central Highlands.
A map showed each spray mission with a thin black line. Starting point "A" and ending point "B." The area I was in was completely blacked out on the spray mission map.
I've now had four heart attacks and also have type two diabetes. I've had a double bypass and five stents. My vascular system is pretty fucked. I almost lost my right leg with the last heart blockage and accompanying right leg blood clot.
I first hooked up with you guys in 1972 with the San Francisco Chapter. Mike Oliver was there—also Jack McCloskey and the unforgettable "Max Casualty," aka Don Rice. There were many others I don't remember the names of.
They worked and, in some cases, lived in the office on Howard Street. I had hitchhiked into David Harris's "Peoples Union Co-Op Farm #1 outside of Fresno, near Raisen City, in February 1972. I and my traveling companion had just gotten out of the Humboldt County Jail after serving a month for ripping off the food stamp system and the local supermarket.
It's a long, interesting story, but I'll skip the details now. We were on our way to San Diego to hook up with the NVA [Nonviolent Action Committee] when we hitched into David Harris's farm outside of Fresno.
Through the farm, I finally met VVAW up in San Francisco.
VVAW planned to form a convoy, starting there in Redwood City, in the Frisco Bay area, run down the coast to Los Angeles and San Diego, and then across US 10 to Jacksonville, and make a right down 95 to Miami Beach and the Republican Presidential Convention in August 1972.
All along the journey from San Francisco to Miami, we picked up brothers and sisters who were also committed to bringing the lies and realities of the death and destruction, caused by the present administration, to the unforgiving glaring light and truth of the moment at the Republican National Presidential Convention.
I drove the California group at least half of the journey to Miami in a large half-ton flatbed pickup truck.
The truck was owned by a brother Vet, from the 101st. His first name was Bob. He was a farmer from the Bakersfield area and had just recently had a baby boy.
We were the truck that wound up carrying Mingo, another 101st brother from 71-72, who had a 750 Triumph motorcycle.
Mingo's name was Bob Mingus. We carried the bike to Miami and then wound up throwing it in a river off a bridge on the way back west.
When we arrived in Miami, I was the driver of the flatbed. As we drove up to Flamingo Park, the Yippies jumped on the truck's running board and welcomed us to Miami by throwing joints in the window.
The joints didn't go to waste.
Five or six of us got arrested in Miami Beach, out on the Keys. We had some legit passes to the event. We were in a different flatbed than the one I had driven. I was just a passenger on the back. We had tried to crash the "Young Republicans For Nixon Rally" to do a little guerrilla theater. The rally was being held in some sports stadium out on the Keys.
We headed to the stadium to do the guerrilla theater with our jungle fatigues and plastic Mattel toy M-16s.
We were denied entrance at the gate to the parking lot of the stadium and turned around and sent back to Miami.
The police were notified about us at that point, I assume, and we were pulled over by Florida State Troopers on the causeway.
The police stopped the truck because they said we had a broken tail light. We showed them that we didn't have a broken tail light. At that point, the young state trooper smashed one of the outer tail lights on the truck's right rear and stated, "Well it looks like you got one now."
It somehow turned into an impounded vehicle offense, and we were all ordered off the truck.
Then, we were all arrested for being pedestrians on the causeway.
Kinda Kafkaesque. There was no way we weren't getting arrested that day on the causeway in the Florida Keys.
The arrests were discussed the next day, as filmed in the documentary Last Patrol. Jack was giving most of the talk to the VVAW campsite at Flamingo Park as a prelude to marching in peaceful protest to the Republican Convention Center.
It cost $50 each to bail us out, and money was running thin.
That was the message to the crowd as we prepared to march on the Convention Center.
I helped push the wheelchair brothers up Collins Blvd. to the Fountainbleu Hotel.
Before the march on the Convention Center, VVAW en masse marched out of Flamenco Park up Collins Blvd. to the Fountainbleu Hotel, where the Republican delegation was staying for the convention.
I was close enough to the front of the march to get one of the 48 warm Cokes that the then Congressman from California, Pete McClosky, handed out when we reached the Fountainbleu Hotel. I am trying to remember if the Cokes came before, during, or after Ron Kovic's memorable speech. If I had to bet, I'd bet on before or during.
I coulda had two cokes; I was that close, but figured one was enough, and I didn't like Coke-Cola anyway
On the return trip to California from Miami, Bob's truck encountered a mechanical problem in Texas. We laid over a day to get it fixed. The rednecks that got us going from Texas put a faulty band-aid on the motor.
I told everyone that I thought we were getting fucked by the mechanic in Texas but no one listened.
The band-aid didn't last too long, and the motor threw a rod just as we crossed the California border.
Through the connections on the farm, I got someone to come and get the truck. We loaded it on the farm's much larger flatbed and hauled it to Bob's farm in Bakersfield.
I stayed at the farm until the fall, when some of us had to leave for the winter.
I was in Boulder, Colorado, when I got word through the farm that my older brother, Dennis, had been killed in Vietnam.
He was on his fourth tour and the last day of his last tour. It was 10/31/72.
Dennis's name is on panel #80, down in the bottom quarter of the panel.
Pat Finnegan, 3rd platoon, Delta Company. 1/503rd, 173rd Abn 1/69- 10/69, USA 8/66-10/69. 82nd Abn 3/67-11/68 Ft Bragg NC.