Thursday, July 11, 2019

When Winter Soldiers Were Needed-From The Archives Of Veterans For Peace

By Fritz Taylor

Recently in a short archive caption about the Bath Iron Works in Maine where many of the top-of-the line and billion-dollar expensive destroyers are built I mentioned, as a little background for knowing about the place that I am a Vietnam Veteran. I also mentioned in an earlier archive caption while I hate the NRA I favor my Second Amendment right to bear arm. But whatever vestiges I have of my growing up in Fulton County, Georgia I “got religion” on the questions of war and peace through the hellhole of Vietnam experience. Not right away, certainly not right away since I come from a long, a very long line of military people and not completely at first since I initially mistook being anti-war with pacificism which I was, am uncomfortable with. Now though I am comfortable with the twenty plus years I have spent screaming (if necessary) against the endless wars, the bloated military budgets and the glorification of the fog war creates in the public, and among soldiers and politicians.

Now I was strictly Army, Fourth Division so you know I saw some hellish action in Vietnam, particularly when we were sent to re-enforce up in the Central Highland and I can tell you plenty about that branch of the service, the waste and the like. You can always learn sometime new though in this struggle against war and endless budgets. I certainly did the year I went up to Maine to walk the walk Peace Walk then held annually about quiet Bath and its well-oiled shipbuilding capacity.  Each year they organizers, more about them in a minute, try to gather in a theme that speaks to the militarization of our country, of the world, the particular role Maine plays in that process and of course from our perspective some alternatives. In 2016 that was around creating the environment for a sustainable future, very much more in doubt in the few years since that walk, which meant a serious frontal attack on the role the military plays in not making the future world sustainable. I should have mentioned before that leaflets are passed out with messages along that line along the line of march, the sites selected like Bath Iron Works where things need to be changed and evening programs at the various nightly stopping points dealing with the overall theme message.  

I noted in the last archival caption that I have been doing these walks for a few years even though I had my fill of marches in the Army. Moreover, I had my doubts whether such a walking program over a couple of weeks would do anything for the cause, still have questions.
Enter the great equalizers.  I started, kicking and screaming at first about doing this trek once my friends Sam Eaton and Ralph Morris went up to Maine to help out in the annual Maine Peace Walk sponsored by the Maine chapter of Veterans for Peace and other local activist peace groups. Ralph and Sam pointed out that even a few VFP dove-encrusted flags on the march would ensure that some message was getting through. Having seen that flag business work a million times before I bought in -for part of the trek.  

Of course if you had read the previous caption you know that “helping out” entailed walking half the freaking state of Maine at least on the oceanside, the side where U.S. Route One slithers down the coast. Over a period of several days. I had started up in Brunswick, up at Bowdoin College where I met walkers who had started up I believe in Rangeley which I do not have a clue where that is except it is pretty far north in Maine with plenty left before you reach the Canadian border. (As it turned out Sam and Ralph who started their own treks there were clueless when I asked where the place was except the military has a tracking station there which links that nowhere Maine town with the American’s military’s globalization of their forces in many fields. I said good work brothers for starting there, yes, good work indeed.    

Ralph Morris and I are Vietnam veterans, Sam didn’t serve because he was the sole surviving son of a mother who had four young daughters to raise after Sam’s drunken father passed away of a heart attack in 1965. It took me a while, took me a while as it did to “get religion” on the issues of war and peace, and to get over the false division between anti-war activity and working with avowed pacifists to accept Sam as a brother. Hell as a winter soldier although I already knew from Ralph that as early as 1971 in Washington on May Day where they “met” after being arrested in Robert F. Kennedy football stadium where they had with their respective groups attempted to stop the war by stopping the government that Sam was some old righteous Puritan angel avenger out of the John Brown mold. Took a while but knew deep in my bones that this guy was for real, that when he said something you could depend on him. Yeah, now in 2019 we are in desperate need of winter soldiers. And if you don’t know, are not familiar with that term then think about that small band of stalwarts was held firm at Valley Forge come fight against the British and their hirelings. The defenders of the republican idea when that was very dicey indeed. Like now.        

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