Saturday, July 28, 2007

VVAW 40th: The clock's tickin'...


Cracker Swamp, Fl - Five and a Wake-Up -- and I will have stepped back through time in Chicago amongst folks that I haven't seen or talked to in over thirty years. Folks who collectively, along with thousands of others from all across America, locked arms and changed the face of America way back in The Day.

Talk about flash-backs!

The last time that I was in Chicago with VVAW was for national meetings in the early 1970's. What a time it was! There was an incredible energy surrounding everything that we did back then. An energy that pulled folks from all over the country to rally around the Objectives of VVAW, and to plan and manage a national identity and successful political strategy from the grassroots up -- an identity that ultimately had Nixon and his lackeys reeling in frustration, and suffering agonizing public defeat.

It was a maddening frustration for them born of VVAW's charismatic power to reach and influence the American electorate with its message of peace in Southeast Asia and social and political change right here at home. All of this despite the best efforts of the Justice Department, highly paid political operatives and negative media campaigns not only funded by the RNC, but which were openly supported by Nixon's increasingly crooked administration, i.e. Plumbers and Dirty Tricks.

Those best efforts were actively mounted against VVAW with a tyrannical vengeance, i.e. Gainesville 8 (12) trial re Center For Constitutional Rights, and the FBI COINTEL program re Glass House Tapes,1973. No biggie; we won anyway. Truth always wins in the end as long as someone stands up to tell it as did VVAW at the Winter Soldier Investigation, Operation Dewey Canyon III, and Operation Last Patrol to the Miami Republican Convention in 1972. Nixon ultimately fell in disgrace, many of his cronies went to jail and peace came to Vietnam. For a short while, America had its Flag back.

Now we gather in Chicago once again in another century, no less! This time it is to reflect on our history and our continued unity of purpose: the preservation of the Truth of Our Times and our apparent staying power under less than favorable conditions. It is a time to exchange tales around the campfire. Tales not only relived from The Day, but from what for many of us have become the lost years. Those years that were lost following the melting back into society of the true heart of the movement; the masses of stalwarts that took the mission and carried us to victory. Those years that the adrenaline was still pumping without a target for its manifestations.

I would like to think that this VVAW 40th Anniversary -- an incredible validation for those who stood and fought back in The Day and is in the best Winter Soldier tradition -- will also stand as a positive example for today's Combat Veterans as they return to The World and encounter the unfeeling bureaucracies, and experience the DOD and the VA's inadequacies in caring for their Special Problems. Problems that are unique to, and directly result from, America's Second Great Nightmare of Counter-Insurgency Warfare. Problems which were never adequately addressed by the government the first time around and so are now festering into open wounds again today, i.e. Walter Reed. Special Problems that are not only physically debilitating, but socially and psychologically debilitating. Problems that we have been actively dealing with for 40 years. Lessons that we have been learning for 40 years; lessons that we can share with them:

Unity, Struggle, Victory.

This 40th Anniversary gathering is a living example for our returning troops. By organizing and demonstrating a unity of purpose and employing the very training and skills and lessons learned in a military combat environment, they will earn a more powerful voice and image than those who would do them any disservice for political, personal or capital gain. These are the very ingredients that made VVAW history and ensured its continued existence.

It is these returning troups that bring us together again in Chicago on 3-5 August, 2007, some thirty years after we prevailed victorious against the tyrants of The Day, and the smoke from those surrealistic battles has long since cleared. We gather to consider and gain validation over our past history, sending a loud and clear message to our young Brothers and Sisters:

As we did it Together Then...
They can do it Together Again...

We are still here to support them in their battles, whenever needed and/or called upon.

Semper Fi!

Willie Hager
VVAW Regional Coordinator
Calif/Nev 1972-1974