Frank Jackman comment on Courage To Resist and military resisters:
I have always admired military resisters having, frankly, done my time in the military, Vietnam Era time, without any serious reflection about the military, my role in the military, or what was just and unjust about that war until after I got out. After I got out, began to see thing through the fog of war and got serious “religion” on the questions of war and peace from several sources. At first working with the Cambridge Quakers who I had noticed around the fringes of anti-war GI work in the early 1970s when there was a serious basis for doing such work as the American army one way or another was half in mutiny toward the end of American involvement in that war. And a serious need as guys, guys who get their “religion” in the service needed civilian help to survive the military maze that they were trying to fight. This connection with the Quakers had been made shortly after I got out of the service when my doubts crept in about what I had done in the service, and why I had let myself be drafted when I had expressed serious anti-war doubts before induction about what the American government was doing in Vietnam to its own soldiers. But, more importantly, and this was the real beginning of wisdom and something I am keenly aware every time the American government ratchets up the war hysteria for its latest adventure, to the Vietnamese who to paraphrase the great boxer Mohammed Ali (then Cassius Clay) had never done anything to me, never posed any threat to me and mine. But as much as I admired the Quakers and their simple peace witness, occasionally attended their service and briefly had a Quaker girlfriend, I was always a little jumpy around them, my problem not theirs, since their brand of conscientious objection to all wars was much broader than my belief in just and unjust wars.
Later I worked with a couple of anti-war collectives that concentrated on anti-war GI work among active GIs through the vehicle of coffeehouses located near Fort Devens in Massachusetts and Fort Dix down in New Jersey. That work while satisfying and rewarding by actually working with guys who knew the score, knew the score from the inside, and had plenty to tell, especially those who had gotten “religion” under fire was short-lived once American on the ground involvement in Vietnam was minimalized and the horrific draft was abolished as a means of grabbing “cannon fodder” for the damn war. Once the threat of being sent to Vietnam diminished the soldiers drifted off and the anti-war cadre that held things together as well.
What really drove the issue of military resistance home to me though, what caused some red-faced shame was something that I did not find out about until well after my own military service was over. A few years later when I went back to my hometown on some family-related business I found out after meeting him on the street coming out of a local supermarket that my best friend from high school, Sean Kiley, had been a military resister, had refused to go to Vietnam, and had served about two years in various Army stockades for his efforts. Had done his “duty” as he saw it. Had earned his “anti-war” colors the hard way.
See Sean like me, like a lot of working-class kids from places like our hometown, Gloversville, up in Massachusetts, maybe had a few doubts about the war but had no way to figure out what to do and let himself be drafted for that very reason. What would a small town boy whose citizens supported the Vietnam War long after it made even a smidgen of sense, whose own parents were fervent “hawks,” whose older brother had won the DSC in Vietnam, and whose contemporaries including me did their service without a public murmur know of how to maneuver against the American military monster machine. But what Sean saw early on, from about day three of basis training, told him he had made a big error, that his grandmother who grew up in Boston and had been an old Dorothy Day Catholic Worker supporter had been right that there was no right reason for him to be in that war. And so when he could, after receiving orders for Vietnam, he refused to go (I will tell you more of the details some time when I ask him some questions about events that I have forgotten) and did his time in the military that way.
Sean’s story, and in a sense my belated story, are enough reasons to support Courage to Resist since, unfortunately, there are today very few organizations dedicated to providing informational, legal, and social support for the military resisters of the heinous onslaughts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The organization needs the help of every ex-soldier who got “religion,” of every anti-war activist, and of every honest citizen who realizes, now more than ever, that the short way to end the endless wars of this generation is to get to the soldiers, get to the cadre on the ground fighting the damn wars. Enough said.
Friday, March 27, 2015
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