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From the National Office
By Barry Romo and Joe Miller
Welcome to the Fall-Winter 2002 issue of The Veteran - our Veterans Day issue!
VVAW commemorates its 35th anniversary this year, a year when
Bush's unending "war on terrorism" is terrorizing people
in this country and all over the world and when the threat of
a major conflagration in Iraq and throughout the Middle East hangs
over all of us.
While we invite you to recall the historical influence and
continuing relevance of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, we call
upon all of you to rededicate yourselves to the tasks that have
been ours for these past 35 years - the ongoing struggle for social
justice and peace for everyone.
When VVAW was first established in 1967, we wanted to end the
war in Vietnam, but we did so much more. We've made history and
we've changed America.
Yes, tens upon tens of thousands of vets found a home (not
to mention husbands, wives, partners, parents, ne'er-do-wells
and malcontents). But we did not just camp; we did not hide out,
feeling "unappreciated." No, we spoke out. We acted.
We took our message to the American people and to the international
community. We changed policies and minds through our commitment
and our activism.
Long time peace and justice activist Dave Dellinger has said
that we breathed new life into the peace movement. The largest
demonstrations against the war were in the Seventies, not the
Sixties: inspired by our arrival on the scene.
We were not only concerned about our brothers and sisters still
in the military but about the victims of war as well. We showed
our solidarity with the Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians by
holding meetings, visiting their countries, and bringing up their
side of the tragedy. We were the first to return and we continue
to build friendship.
Yes, VVAW also began the whole Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD) movement, nurtured and expanded it. There would not be
compensation, vets' centers, or thousands of people alive today
without our struggle. Agent Orange, educational benefits, the
fight against homelessness, equal rights for women. Yeah, that
was us, too.
We didn't have degrees or money, but we had experience and
We were never blind to domestic ills, especially racism. We
fought it in the South and the North. We faced the KKK and Nazis
in Illinois, Mississippi, Alabama, Washington D.C., New York,
Chicago, California and Florida.
In Miami, 1972, not only did we trounce and decimate Nazis,
but VVAW was in the leadership of the Poor People's Political
Campaign at the Democratic convention - the only predominantly
white group along with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,
National Welfare Rights Organization, Tenants Union, etc.
We marched and fought in these struggles with pride, as we
never did or could in the U.S. military. Of course, we did not
go unnoticed by the FBI, the CIA and others. Tails, wiretaps,
provocateurs, agents, investigations, trials and jail for many
of us followed. The state came after us because we had served
in the military. They had trained us, and they were afraid. It
wasn't always easy in the movement. Many of us lost family, friends,
The end of the war in Vietnam did not bring an end to our struggles.
Real justice had not been achieved. We declared war on the Veterans
Administration, and we demanded a decent shake for all vets, regardless
of discharge, as well as amnesty for all draft resisters!
We took up the scourge of Agent Orange, following the lead
of the courageous Maude De Victor, and we let Reagan/Bush know
that there should be no war in Central America. We continued to
warn the American public of "another Vietnam" (we in
VVAW love the term "Vietnam Syndrome"), and again put
our lives on the line to oppose the killing.
We did not stagnate, and we are proud of the younger vets who
have found a home in VVAW over the years. Lebanon, Grenada, Panama
and the Persian Gulf War (1990-91), all these have brought us
new members. And yes, there are also people on active duty today
who are members of VVAW.
We have a past and a present. VVAW also has a future, as long
as real social justice and peace elude the peoples of the world.
As veterans, we know the true costs of war extend beyond any battlefield,
and we have a responsibility to educate our fellow citizens about
this. With Bush's threat to veto a bill that includes $275 million
for veterans' health care, we can see how hypocritical his administration
is. They are certainly willing to go to war to produce more casualties,
but they are not willing to pay for their own policies. This is
nothing new to us.
We shall not sit idly by while Bush's endless "war on
terrorism" engulfs the world and the "chickenhawks"
like Cheney, Perle and Wolfowitz want to invade every country
they happen not to like. VVAW members around the country and around
the world must still speak out in high schools, colleges, pulpits,
the halls of Congress and the streets. We still have to feed homeless
vets and demand decent benefits. Why? Because it is crystal clear
that this new American Empire is not willing to take care of anyone
but the rich of the world.
So, on this Veterans Day, hold events that help to celebrate
the longevity and the victories of 35 years of VVAW, and, more
importantly, join with folks in your communities to continue the
struggle toward a better future for a world of peace and social
justice for all!
Barry Romo and Joe Miller are national coordinators of VVAW.