Saturday, May 22, 2010

Soldiers & Suicide: A Warrior Poet's Nightmare...

Carrying a Backpack of Sorrow:
Soldiers on the Edge of Suicide

By Nadya Williams
Freelance Journalist, Veterans Advocate, Agent Orange Activist

More of our young soldiers are now killing themselves than are being killed in our wars in the Middle East. The sad statistics are at the end of this article, but the following poem by a 24-year-old former Marine, who slashed his wrists twice after four years of duty and two tours of combat, tells it all.
You fell off the seat as the handlebars turned
sharp left, throwing your body onto
the hot coals of Ramadi pavement,
intertwining your legs within your bicycle.
Lifeless eyes looking to the sky,
your neck muscles twitched turning your head
directly towards us. Nothing escaped your
lips except for the blood in the left corner
of your mouth that briefly moistened them
until the sand and dust dried them out.
The blood trail went behind the stone wall
where your body was placed, weighed down
by your blue bicycle and we laughed.
I used to fall asleep to the pictures and now
I can’t even bear to get a glimpse.
Excerpted from “The Bicycle” by Jon Michael Turner

The military “broke me down into a not-good person, wearing a huge mask,” Turner told the audience at his poetry reading in San Francisco’s Beat Museum, in North Beach. The March 12 event – on the birthday of ‘Beatnik’ literary icon Jack Kerouac – was organized by the venerable Jack Hirschman, San Francisco’s 2006 Poet Laureate, and by the local IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War). Jon read from his small, self-published book “Eat the Apple” and from several large pages of dark green hand-made paper – the product of The Combat Paper Book Project, where 125 vets, ranging from World War II through Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, shredded their uniforms to make books for their poetry. “Poetry saved my life,” Jon told us, more than once. (Photo: Jack Hirschman, 2006 Poet Laureate of San Francisco, with Iraq War vet, Jon Michael Turner)

The Burlington, Vermont native was accompanied by his father and step-mother on a coast to coast series of readings from the little book whose name comes from a play on the word “core.” The flyer for the evening reading stated:

“There’s a term ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine,’” Turner says, ripping his medals off and flinging them to the ground. As the room explodes in applause he adds, “But there’s also the expression:

‘Eat the apple, f*ck the corps.
I don’t work for you no more!’”

Jon walks with a cane and was physically injured in battle, but only his poetry reveals his invisible wounds, as in these excerpts from “A Night in the Mind of Me – part 1”
The train hits you head on when you hear of another
friend whose life was just taken.
Pulling his cold lifeless body from the cooler,
unzipping the bag and seeing his forehead,
caved in like a cereal bowl from the sniper’s bullet
that touched his brain.
His skin was pale and cold.

It becomes difficult to sleep even after being
physically drained from patrols, post,
overwatches and carrying five hundred
sandbags up eighty feet of stairs after
each post cycle.

The psychiatrists still wonder why we
drink so heavy when we get home.
We need something to take us away
from the gunfire, explosions,
sand, nightmares and screams……….
I still can’t cry.
The tears build up but no weight is shed.
Anger kicks in and something else
becomes broken.
A cabinet
An empty bottle of liquor
A heart
A soul.

People still look away as we submit ourselves
to drugs and alcohol to suppress these
feelings of loneliness and sadness,
leading to self mutilation and
self destruction on the gift of a human body.
The ditch that we dug starts to cave in.

And from “A Night in the Mind of Me  –  part 2:”
Laughter pours out from the house as if nothing
were the matter, when outside in a chair, underneath
a tree, next to the chickens, I sit,
engulfed in my own sorrows……

Resting on the ground is my glass,
half filled with water but I don’t have
enough courage to pick it up and smash it against
my skull so that everyone can watch blood
pool in the pockets where my collar
bones meet my dead weighted shoulders,…
Every time I’m up, something pulls me down,
whenever I relax, something stresses me out,
every time a smile tugs on my heart, an
iron fist crushes it, and I sit outside in a chair,
underneath a tree, next to the chickens,
away from the ones that I love so
that my disease won’t infect them.
Sorrow and self-pity should be detained,
thrown into an empty bottle and given to the
ocean so that the waves can wash away the pain.

One wonders why this slightly-built, sensitive young man joined the Marines in 2004 at the age of 18 (he was sent first to Haiti at the time of the US-backed February coup that ousted the populist and democratic President Jean-Bertrand Aristide). Jon revealed that he came from a military family whose participation in every American conflict stretches back to the Revolutionary War. His father is clearly too young to have gone to Vietnam, but could have easily been in one or both of the Bushes’ wars. Jon’s big brother is also a soldier, ironically now in Haiti after the earthquake. Of the American military, Jon now writes in ”What May Come”:
tap, tap
That’s the sound of the man at your door,
I’m sorry but you won’t see your son alive anymore,
my name is Uncle Sam and I made your boy a whore.

And, from “Just Thoughts”:
I often wonder
if this will be the rest of my life.
Schizophrenic, paranoid, anxious.
That guy that walks around the city center that
people steer their children away from.
“Mommy, who’s that man walking next
to the crazy guy?”
“Oh that’s just Uncle Sam sweetheart, he takes
the souls from young men so that
they have trouble sleeping at night”

“It takes the Courage and Strength of a Warrior to ask for Help” – we’ve all seen the ads, on billboards and busses, with the silhouette of a down-cast soldier against a back drop of the stars and stripes, and a 1-800 Help Line just for vets, provided by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. But “The Surge” in self-inflicted deaths continues, with our military reporting 350 suicides of active duty personnel in 2009, compared to 340 combat deaths in Afghanistan, and 160 in Iraq during the same year – the highest active duty military suicide numbers since records began to be kept in 1980. And for every death, at least five serving personnel are hospitalized for attempting to take their life, according to the military’s own studies.

But these statistics do not include the far larger number of post-active duty veterans who kill themselves after discharge, or, like Jon Michael Turner, who make the attempt. (Vietnam veteran suicides number easily in the tens of thousands.) A CBS study put the current suicide rate among male veterans aged 20 to 24 at four times the national average. According to CNN, total combat deaths since 2001 (8+ years) in Afghanistan are now 1,016; since 2003 (7 years) in Iraq 4,390 – totaling 5,406 as of March 21, 2010. However the Veteran’s Administration estimates that 6,400 veterans take their own lives each year – an ever growing proportion of them from the recent Mid-East wars – with this figure widely disputed as being way too low. Multiply 6,400 by seven or eight years to compare the numbers of our young soldiers that are now killing themselves, to those being killed in our wars and occupations.

The last word belongs to Jon Michael Turner, from “Taught How To Love”:
I’m sick of carrying this pain
everywhere I go. I’m sick of being
thanked for my service. I’d rather
have society thank the people that
don’t believe in war, or thank
the people that get arrested for
an act of civil disobedience, or
thank the people that resist.
To buy “Eat the Apple,” contact Jon M. Turner, Seven Star Press, 4 Howard Street Suite 12, Burlington, VT 05401; E-mail:  See also: (Iraq Veterans Against the War)
Nadya Williams is a free-lance journalist and a former study-tour coordinator for Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based human rights and peace non-profit.  She is an active associate member of Veterans for Peace, San Francisco chapter, and is on the national board of the New York-based Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Fight is On: Banished Veterans are looking for a few good advocates and activists to join in...

STOP the Deportation of U.S. Veterans
Arrested, Imprisoned, Banished & Betrayed On Behalf of a Grateful Nation

Ed Note: This piece also appears in the VVAW Spring 2010 The Veteran newspaper, and Jan has submitted a National Call to Action to VVAW, for adaptation as a National VVAW Campaign.WH
Operations Coordinator

When I first heard of the deportation of veterans I said Bull Shit, they don’t deport veterans. After 62 years I should have known better. At first I became pissed off at yet another example of our government treating veterans like condoms, “use them once and throw them away”,  and when I calmed down I took action.
If you had Googled “deportation of veterans, deporting U.S. Military Veterans, banished veterans” or any combination of words to describe this national disgrace in January of 2009 you would have found very little on this injustice.  Since then we have, with the guidance and assistance of a dedicated Immigration and Criminal Defense Attorney, Heather Boxeth, who serves as Lead Council:                                                                                                                           
  • Formed a National Banished Veterans Defense Committee & Clearing House  in San Diego California.
  •  Drafted the Proposed Amendment to the Law & Legal Rational
  •  Created a Banished Veterans Brochure with an outline of issue, proposed change in law, a brief history and talking points.
  • Created a Letter for concerned citizens to send to The President of the United States and to the Director of Homeland Security requesting that they stay further deportation of former U.S. Military Veterans
  • We have given dozens of interviews to newspapers, radio and television.
  •  Spoken before The Military Order of the Purple Heart and the American Legion as well as numerous community groups in Southern California.
  • Presented the issue to the Veterans For Peace National Convention in 2009 and put on a workshop with a panel that included a Vietnam Era Veteran and member of VVAW, Louie Alvarez, who is facing deportation, a family member, Angelica Madrigal, our lead attorney, Heather Boxeth and me.
  • Traveled to Washington DC, walked the halls of Congress and lobbied members of Congress.
  • Lobbied Congressional Representatives in San Diego, Orange County & Pennsylvania.
  • Presented the issue to the 2009 National Lawyers Guild Convention which adopted a resolution to form a National Banished Veterans Committee of the NLG to advocate for a change in the laws to make all veterans “U. S. Nationals”.
  • Submitted a Resolution to the Democratic Caucus process in Colorado that is currently being shepherded through the system by Calixto Cabrera of VVAW.
  • Met with all five (5) members ‘of the San Diego Congressional Delegation and several other Districts in Southern California with members of Veterans For Peace, Chapter 91 who have adopted the issue as a main focus of concern for community outreach and congressional action.  
  • Set-up a website run by the affected veterans at
Today if you Google any combination of words to describe the deportation of veterans you will find hundreds of Newspaper articles, TV Interviews, Radio Shows and blogs on the issue and were just getting started.
Many regressive Members of Congress insist it’s an “Immigration” issue and will be dealt with when they take up Immigration Reform. Bull shit! This is a National Veterans Issue and don’t let anyone try and tell you different and if you think Healthcare was mean spirited just wait until they take on immigration reform. For me, as a Vietnam Veteran it’s simple, it’s a Semper Fi thing, “No Man Left Behind”. It is absolutely not an immigration issue as some anti-immigrant members of congressman would like to cloak it.
In short we have shined a light on an issue that our government would like kept in the dark. But a year later little has changed, the Deportation of U. S. Military Veterans continues unabated. And while I am proud of the progress that we have made with no money and very few volunteers I cannot help but  imagine the impact and progress that could have been made had Banished Veterans become a National Campaign of VVAW, adopted by and worked on by members and supporters all over the country.
It’s time to shine a brighter light on this injustice. It’s time to take this issue to all Congressional Districts in all 50 states. It’s time to take this issue to all veterans’ organizations nationally and to ask them to support a resolution to protect these veterans. I propose that VVAW adopt at its upcoming National Steering Committee Meeting the following Resolution for the memberships consideration. These men served. They were willing to die to protect and defend this nation. We can do no less than form and deploy the reactionary squad and march to the sounds of the battle in defense of these veterans.
To view the photos and read the stories of some of the Banished Veterans go to the website that they have created and run at  and if you are so moved, click on “DONATE".

Sunday, May 16, 2010

After Action Report: Kent State 40th Commemoration

Kent State University: The Start of the Crescendo

By Cynthia & Michael Orange
Contributing Journalists

Forty years ago, I survived combat in Vietnam and returned to my college campus to finish the degree the war had interrupted. Instead of the bucolic haven for higher learning I remembered during my two years there, I arrived at the start of an anti-war protest sparked by President Nixon’s announcement two days earlier that he had directed US forces to invade Cambodia, a neutral country in the war. The next day, protestors (or agent provocateurs) burned down the campus ROTC building—a rickety WW II-vintage barracks that was slated for demolition. Governor James A. Rhodes capitalized on this opportunity to issue a strong law-and-order response intended to help him with the Republican primary battle he was facing, so he ordered the Ohio National Guard to take control of the campus and squelch student dissent.
The sight on Main Street of M113 APCs with top-mounted machine guns trailing live ammo belts followed by National Guardsmen with 10-inch-long bayonets protruding from their M1 rifles marching towards my campus sent me into knee-buckling dismay and anger. Two days later, after numerous futile attempts to disperse angry crowds of students chanting, “Guard off campus,” the unit’s Troop G regrouped at the top of a hill next to Taylor Hall, took up firing positions at the order of “Guard, prepare to fire,” and then opened up for thirteen seconds on a crowd of unarmed students. Most of their sixty-seven rounds went over heads, but fourteen found their targets, killing four and wounding nine, one of whom never walked again.
My wife, Cynthia, and I returned to the campus to participate in the 40th anniversary of these historic events. Our joint account of our experiences follows:

We travelled with our close friend, Nic, another Kent State alumni who was on campus that on that fateful day, May 4, 1970. He was one of the students that Troop G chased. Nic had to climb a fence to get away but when he heard the volley, he raced back toward the Guardsmen and helped Sandra Scheuer, a hearing and speech student on her way to class. A 30 Cal. round had exploding her neck and the bleeding was profuse. Nic and others stayed with her until an ambulance finally came. “Nic was just like a soldier,” a mutual friend told us through her tears upon our departure for our pilgrimage to Kent. “He wouldn’t leave his fallen comrade.” After ambulances carried Sandra and the other dead and wounded students away, Nic turned to the place where a head shot had killed Jeffrey Miller. “Someone dipped a flag in the pool of his blood and kept waving it all around,” Nic told us. “At first I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, then the rage set in. I had so much anger. It was such a tragic abuse of power.”

While many VetSpeak readers sacrificed in the jungles of Vietnam at the time, Nic and many like him sacrificed during the war at home. The residual poison of that day has haunted Nic ever since. It took him 40 years to return to KSU, his battleground. Like many combat veterans, he needed to confront his ghosts and tell his story.

Laurel Krause and her 84-year-old mother, Doris, also bear the scars of losing their 19-year-old sister and daughter, Allison, a committed peace activist and Kent State student who was also killed that day. Laurel, who was just 15 at the time, told us she has PTSD from the trauma of having a loved one so senselessly and suddenly lost to them forever. Knowing that many others—townspeople, University administrators, students and their families, Vietnam veterans, Guardsmen, and police—still carry deep grief, anger, and unresolved feelings about that tragedy, Laurel and her mother created a “Truth Tribunal” for the 40th anniversary, fashioned after the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission established by Nelson Mandela after apartheid. (Testimony can viewed at:
From May 1-4, all those who wished to could come to the space the Krauses rented above the Franklin Square Deli in downtown Kent to record how their experiences at Kent State affected their lives. Learning that these events had enormous effects on others helped Nic understand how trauma responses are normal reactions to abnormal occurrences. As he and many veterans have discovered, breaking silence can be like salve to a long-festering wound.

Laurel Krause told us she felt lighter, even joyful, after being able to talk about Alison’s life and death and offer others a chance to share their stories. Nic said it was wonderful to finally be ready to share this life-altering experience with his family. As a wise person said, “Trauma may always be with you, but you can learn to carry it differently.”

Throughout our time at Kent, we kept crossing paths with fellow members of VVAW, who had a strong presence during the anniversary events. One of these veterans told us how he vividly recalls being in Vietnam when he got the news of the killings. “I just hung my head and sobbed. I was supposed to be in Vietnam defending my country—supposedly fighting for democracy and rights like free speech. And then I found out our soldiers killed students for speaking out against the war we all hated?” (VVAW photos are courtesy of Ward Reilly, FB)

Over the course of the weekend, we were struck repeatedly at the toll war takes—whether one fights it on the battlefield or on the streets of American cities. The evening of May 3rd, we heard Congressman John Lewis, the keynote speaker for the anniversary events. He strikingly described the long history of people’s movements in this country and the sacrifices progress demands. He threaded the martyrdoms of the civil rights movement to those of the peace movement. He honored names every American should know; names like Emmitt Till, Medger Evans, and the names of the four little girls murdered in the Montgomery, Alabama church bombing. And then he linked them to Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green, murdered at Jackson State, and the names on the KSU campus memorials: Alison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder.
“War is obsolete as a tool of our foreign policy,” said Lewis. “We’re in a struggle to redeem the soul of America and it is a struggle of a lifetime.” He went on to remind the audience that we have a mandate from the “spirit of history” to remember what happened at Selma and Montgomery; what happened in Vietnam; and what happened at Jackson State and Kent State.

After Congressman Lewis’s powerful speech, we crossed the campus to hear Bobby Seale, founder of the Black Panthers and one of the celebrated Chicago 8. Without notes and seemingly without taking a breath for two hours, Seale captivated an audience of all ages and experiences with his rapid-fire tales of the 60s. His story—his truths—of the Panthers’ programs of community empowerment were in stark contrast with the descriptions from the FBI-inspired corporate media that smeared the organization. For example, J. Edgar Hoover described the Panthers’ program of offering free breakfast for kids as a “communist-inspired conspiracy that would destroy the country.” (Presentations can be viewed at:

The evening culminated with an hour-long candlelight procession around the perimeter of the campus. About 750 people walked in light rain and solemn silence in honor of the fallen over ground stained so many years ago by blood and tears shed by bayoneted and gassed students. At midnight, we arrived at the parking lot where the four students were so senselessly murdered. Like chalk lines at a murder scene, stubby light pylons outlined the exact locations where they fell. We both remarked at how the memorial at KSU was another Wall; another monument to the insanity of war.
A little after noon the next day, exactly 40 years later, the University’s Victory Bell tolled for each of the students killed at Kent State and Jackson State. Following this was a full roster of speakers—from family and friends of the fallen at both Kent and Jackson State to professors and 60s activists—who linked the events of the tumultuous 60s to the unsettled times of today. A professor of journalism who was also a student on May 4, 1970, urged present-day students to move beyond apathy to action lest history repeat itself. She cautioned against overlooking or taking for granted the sacrifices that military veterans and veterans of the peace and justice movements made decades ago; sacrifices that still benefit us today.

The Kent State shootings marked a turning point in the anti-war movement. While there is a long history of government violence against minorities and unions, Kent was the first time the weapons targeted white students. The anti-war movement ramped up after Kent State to the point where it shorted the war and thus saved lives. As historian, Howard Zinn, said in an interview in 2007, “I think the war ended because the protests in the United States reached a crescendo, which couldn’t be ignored.” Kent State started the crescendo that stopped the war.


Cynthia Orange is a freelance writer, editor, and writing consultant. Her latest book, Shock Waves: A Practical Guide to Living with a Loved One’s PTSD (Hazelden) will be available in July. (See Cynthia’s web site at: Shock Waves)

Michael Orange is an environmental consultant and he teaches a college class on sustainability planning and another on the Vietnam War. As a Marine serving in Vietnam, he experienced combat in numerous search-and-destroy missions and patrols during his one-year tour of duty (1969-70). In 2001, he published a memoir of his experiences, Fire in the Hole: A Mortarman in Vietnam. (See Michael’s author’s page:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Action Alert: Vietnam Veteran Joe Diliberti Vs San Diego County

Ed Note: This piece also appears on Veterans Today’s pages, and we owe them the thanks for the photos, and for their taking this issue as an editorial focus.  I became aware of the story while I was in Ventura, Ca, for the coalition meeting (VVAW, IVAW, VFP, MFSO, and support groups) 2d Veterans & Military Families Conference, just this past month.   After some discussion about it, my friend and VVAW associate Mutt, agreed to follow-up  and submit a piece to VetSpeak on Joe’s dilemma. As powerful as this story is, it is but one example of thousands of similar instances of Veterans clawing and fighting to find peace in this demonic society that we seem to have evolved into....this one, after 40 years!  What I get out of it, is what an example for the rest of us Joe is, and hope that his story will inspire you to personal action.  Here is the appropriate Information and Action link
containing appropriate contact points,  for those of you who wish to take direct action and have your voice heard on this matter.  Also there are action and information links in Mutt’s piece…if you ain’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem (Photo: Willie & Mutt, Ventura).WH

Marine Holds His Ground

That’s sort of a “dog bites man” story; but Joseph Diliberti, the Marine in question, is holding off a very large and dangerous dog indeed. A County government as bankrupt as it is corrupt, that wants to seize a man’s home of thirty years for what they claim are unpaid property taxes, is a particularly nasty dog. Its demands are bullshit. Here’s why….. 

By Mutt, Field Reporter on Recon
(Photos: Veteran Today)

San Diego, Ca - I guess I have to start at the beginning, which for Joseph was the hard streets of Brooklyn, NY; the sound of which glides thru every word he speaks.
As was the norm back then, Joseph enlisted as the war against Viet Nam raged.  In the Marine Corps, he found a world as tough as Brooklyn’s streets, and he fit right in… until what he saw in Viet Nam repelled him. He vowed at that point to neither war against people, nor be a participant in a society that would glorify such things.  

Thirty-odd years ago Joseph found a remote canyon, far from the city. It was a wet, spring fed bit of oasis amidst the desert chaparral. He built a large tree-house where eventually his daughter was born. Over the years, he studied his small corner of the planet, and started building roomy houses out of clay, which he then fired, creating ceramic, fireproof, and indestructible houses which, frankly, astound. He became a “bush vet” and Rastafarian.

Then, about ten years ago, houses started going up around him. To put things into perspective, you have to understand the nature of San Diego county politics. This is a seething Petri dish of tea baggersfundamentalist crackpots, merc and militia wannabes, and the kind of political hacks who use these elements to get elected.  It has to be seen to be believed.

To them, a guy like Joseph Diliberti, an actual veteran speaking simple truth to the elaborate lies of Empire, is someone to be feared and hated. And to the County who serves these people, another easy victim, someone that is easily pushed around - Big mistake
Fast forward a few years, the area becomes more populated and we have massive wildfires, for many reasons, not the least of which is the balding of fire resistant native species & the proliferation of invasive weeds, which turn the countryside into a vast firebomb.  After the ’03 fires that swept thru the backcountry, ash fell from the sky like snow for days.  Then the usual hysterical response came, which we’ve seen in say, the “Patriot Act”- a really stupid idea, rushed thru the system, so politicians will feel “safe.”

In THIS case, the stupid idea was giving a secretive company, with only a PO Box, a no bid contract to “clear” dangerous weeds, and submit a no oversight bill.

This clearing was to be done based on anonymous “complaints.”  The outfit, Fire Prevention Services, determined what was to be cut, where, and how much to charge. They were fired for cause soon after trashing Joseph's green piece of canyon bottom, AFTER the surrounding area, full of weeds, burned.    

The County paid FPS $25,000 with no documentation of what was cut, how much, and where. The San Diego Rural Fire Protection District, under whom this no bid, no oversight contract was awarded, has let out at various times that the work was performed by 1 truck and two people; or 4 people; and for 1, 2, or 3 days - depending on what day it is.

An LA Times story states that “records” shown to the reporter declared 800 cubic yards were removed. That’s about 140 dump truck loads. No dump trucks were ever seen in the area at the time, much less 140. Joseph can’t see these “records” - indeed NO record, but for the bill.

Ever since this assault on Joseph has taken place, the County Tax Assessor has refused to accept Joseph's actual tax bill, but demanded the entire amount, now with 150% interest - his actual tax payments are in escrow. He will be happy to pay his tax bill tomorrow. But the extortion - No! 

Meanwhile, the Vig - well, this is extortion & racketeering so let's use the right terms - has inflated the original bill to over $65,000! That is nothing short of Mob interest rates, and the County now wishes to steal Joseph's land to make good the payment THEY made to a corrupt, oft-sued, pack of swindlers.  AND along the way, will naturally grab a few bucks for themselves.

What would you do?

Well, WE are doing THIS. These are the sort of people who can’t operate in the light of day. YOU are that light!  While San Diego County goes under  -  the county is known world-wide as “Enron by the Sea” - don’t let them make up for THEIR criminal incompetence by seizing Joseph's home and selling it at auction to be bought by who, the unknown neighbor who sic’d this corrupt company on him in the first place?

The fact these crooks and crackpots are doing it to a Marine combat vet is just frosting on the cake.

 Richard Halsey, of the Chaparral Institute, is NCOIC this operation. He knows every detail. I'm the squad cherry….


Monday, May 03, 2010

Four Dead In Ohio...Kent State - May 4th, 1970...

We Kill Our Own
The 40th Anniversary of the Kent State Massacre

By Chuck Palazzo, Danang, VN
Agent Orange & Vietnam Affairs Editor

On May 4, 1970, at Kent State University, in the city of Kent, Ohio, members of the Ohio National Guard fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis. These were unarmed college students who were exercising their constitutional rights to speak their mind, to demonstrate peacefully, and to protest openly against the then recent incursion by US combat forces into Cambodia.

Richard Nixon had been elected President in 1968. He promised to end the Vietnam War. Instead of doing so, he was part of the cover-up of the My Lai massacre and freed Lt. Calley, stating that Calley had “served enough time.” The premeditated murder of over 500 unarmed civilians, many of whom were elderly, women and children was hushed up by our government – the murderer himself freed after serving only 1 day at the Ft. Leavenworth prison and transferred to serve house arrest upon orders given by Nixon.

On December 1st, 1969, the Selective Service of the US held a lottery to determine the order of draft into the Army for the Vietnam War. This was the first draft lottery instituted since World War II.

On Thursday, April 30th, 1970, President Nixon announced the attack into Cambodia using the justification of “a necessary response to North Vietnamese aggression”. A promise to end the Vietnam War? A campaign promise that was yet another lie committed by this pathological lying and criminal US President. Just one of many that eventually forced Nixon to resign, the only United States President to do so, after impeachment hearings had commenced in 1974.

On Friday, May 1st, 1970, a peaceful demonstration with about 500 students was held at Kent State. The Cambodian Incursion, the draft lottery, the continued escalation of the Vietnam War – all issues being protested against. The crowd dispersed at 1 PM to attend classes, but not until another rally was planned for May 4th. As peaceful, symbolic protests continued, one student burned a copy of the US Constitution. Another burned his draft card.

During the evening of May 1st, 1970, trouble occurred around midnight as people left a bar and began throwing beer bottles at cars and broke downtown store fronts in Kent. This crowd was made up of several outsiders and a handful of students – all of whom were indeed angered by the escalation of the war. The police intervened and they restored order.

On Saturday, May 2nd, 1970, the Mayor of Kent declared a state of emergency and asked the Ohio Governor to send the National Guard to Kent to “help maintain order”. The National Guard arrived in town that evening to find a fire had been started by an arsonist at an unoccupied and scheduled to be demolished building. The National Guard made numerous arrests and used tear gas as a large demonstration occurred at the Kent State campus and near to that same building.

On Sunday, May 3rd, 1970, Ohio Governor Rhodes called the protestors un-American and referred to them as revolutionaries set on destroying higher education in Ohio. "They're worse than the brown shirts and the communist element and also the night riders and the vigilantes," Rhodes said. "They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America. I think that we're up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America." Rhodes can be heard in the recording of his speech yelling and pounding his fists on the desk. These were students exercising their right to protest and to be heard. Vigilantes? More of the paranoia exhibited by our government and its leaders.  During the day some students came into downtown Kent to help with cleanup efforts after the rioting, which met with mixed reactions from local businessmen. Kent’s Mayor Satrom, under pressure from frightened citizens, ordered a curfew until further notice.

Around 8:00 p.m., another rally was held on the campus Commons. By 8:45 p.m. the Guardsmen used tear gas to disperse the crowd, and the students reassembled at the intersection of Lincoln and Main Streets, holding a sit-in in the hopes of gaining a meeting with Mayor Satrom and Kent State President White. At 11:00 p.m., the Guard announced that a curfew had gone into effect and began forcing the students back to their dorms. A few students were bayoneted by Guardsmen.

On Monday, May 4, a protest was scheduled to be held at noon, as had been planned three days earlier. University officials attempted to ban the gathering, handing out 12,000 leaflets stating that the event was canceled. Despite this, an estimated 2,000 people gathered on the university's Commons, near Taylor Hall. The protest began with the ringing of the campus's iron Victory Bell (which had historically been used to signal victories in football games) to mark the beginning of the rally, and the first protester began to speak.

Fearing that the situation might escalate into another violent protest, Companies A and C, 1/145th Infantry and Troop G of the 2/107th Armored Cavalry, Ohio Army National Guard (ARNG), the units on the campus grounds, attempted to disperse the students.

Just before noon, the Guard returned and again ordered the crowd to disperse. When most of the crowd refused, the Guard used tear gas. Because of wind, the tear gas had little effect in dispersing the crowd, and some protestors launched a volley of rocks toward the Guard's line, too distant to have any effect, to chants of "Pigs off campus!" The students lobbed the tear gas canisters back at the National Guardsmen, who wore gas masks.

When it was obvious the crowd was not going to disperse, a group of 77 National Guard troops from A Company and Troop G, with bayonets fixed on their weapons, began to advance upon the hundreds of protesters. As the guardsmen advanced, the protesters retreated. The guardsmen pursued the protesters and the protestors showed signs of retreat, as they waited motionless for the end of the protest. Here they remained for about ten minutes. During this time, the bulk of the students congregated off to the left and front of the guardsmen. Others were scattered between Taylor Hall and the Prentice Hall parking lot, while still others – perhaps 35 or 40 – were standing in the parking lot, or dispersing through the lot as they had been previously ordered.

The guardsmen generally faced the parking lot which was about 100 yards away. At one point, some of the guardsmen knelt and aimed their weapons toward the parking lot, then stood up again. For a few moments, several guardsmen formed a loose huddle and appeared to be talking to one another. The guardsmen appeared to be unclear as to what to do next. They had cleared the protesters from the Commons area, and many students had left, but many stayed. At the end of about ten minutes, the guardsmen began to retrace their steps back up the hill toward the Commons area.

At this point, at 12:24 p.m., a number of guardsmen at the top of the hill abruptly turned and fired their M1 Garand rifles at the students. In all, 29 of the 77 guardsmen claimed to have fired their weapons, using a final total of 67 bullets. The shooting was determined to have lasted only 13 seconds, although a New York Times reporter stated that "it appeared to go on, as a solid volley, for perhaps a full minute or a little longer." The question of why the shots were fired remains widely debated.

Many guardsmen later testified that they were in fear for their lives, which was questioned partly because of the distance between them and the students killed or wounded. Time magazine later concluded that "triggers were not pulled accidentally at Kent State". The President's Commission on Campus Unrest avoided probing the question regarding why the shootings happened. Instead, it harshly criticized both the protesters and the Guardsmen, but it concluded that "the indiscriminate firing of rifles into a crowd of students and the deaths that followed were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable."

The shootings killed four students and wounded nine. Two of the four students killed, Allison Krause and Jeffrey Miller, had participated in the protest, and the other two, Sandra Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder, had been walking from one class to the next at the time of their deaths. Schroeder was also a member of the campus ROTC chapter. Of those wounded, none was closer than 71 feet to the guardsmen. Of those killed, the nearest (Miller) was 265 feet away, and their average distance from the guardsmen was 345 feet.

This week, we continue to seek the truth of exactly what happened at Kent State. Noted filmmaker and activist, Michael Moore will be broadcasting live, via his website, the Kent State Truth Tribunal which started yesterday in Kent, Ohio.

Another very sad chapter in American History. No matter what the tribunal uncovers, absolutely nothing will bring back the students who were killed. America and its National Guard murdered innocent students that day in 1970. American citizens who were merely exercising their constitutional rights to express their concerns regarding our involvement and escalation of the Vietnam War.

1. Wikipedia
3. Michael Moore