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VVAW 35th Anniversary
By Dave Kettenhofen
Milwaukee welcomed Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc. for its 35th Anniversary Celebration on Friday, June 21, 2002 with plenty of beer, bratwurst and ever-changing Wisconsin weather. The opening night's event, sponsored by the VVAW Milwaukee Chapter, was held on the riverfront patio of Lakefront Brewery, a longtime supporter of the organization.
Members and friends from across the country trickled in throughout the evening for the "Welcome to Milwaukee" party. Old friendships were rekindled and new ones formed as party-goers feasted on such basic Milwaukee staples as beer and brats. Matt Stewart and Lisa Boucher provided impromptu entertainment with their wonderful renditions of Irish folk music. Hot, humid air and intermittent rain showers failed to dampen spirits as everyone had to move indoors occasionally for the shelter of the brewhouse, where those interested were treated to an educational and hilarious brewery tour by John Zutz. The party finally broke up around 1:00 a.m. as the "aging" guests straggled back to their hotels or homes.
Registration and setup for Saturday's events was scheduled for noon at the Ramada Inn in downtown Milwaukee. However, a problem was immediately apparent when it was learned that the Ramada Inn had double-booked the conference room that was to be used for the afternoon's events. The other conflicting event, a wedding reception, took precedence in their minds, so another venue had to be found. The owner of the Tasting Room, site of the scheduled evening program, was contacted and very graciously allowed VVAW to move the afternoon events to his facility.
In the meantime, while VVAW representatives were (sometimes heatedly) negotiating with Ramada personnel, a large group of peace activists on an anti-war protest march from Madison to Milwaukee - flower-painted bus included - met up with the VVAW anniversary participants and had a spontaneous rally in the Ramada parking lot. To be sure, the Ramada Inn was not delighted to see these events unfold in front of their other hotel guests.
After relocating to the Tasting Room, a much more intimate and friendly venue, the afternoon's event was opened at 2:00 p.m. by National Coordinator John Zutz with a short, humor-laced history of the city of Milwaukee (see text on page16). John read a number of letters and e-mails from supporters who were unable to attend the celebration. John also read a resolution from a plaque that was presented to VVAW from Milwaukee County Supervisor and longtime VVAW member Roger Quindel (see box on this page).
He was followed by other national coordinators Barry Romo, Joe Miller and Dave Cline, who spoke on how VVAW has impacted history by working to end the war, promoting friendship with the Vietnamese, starting the PTSD movement, sparking Agent Orange studies, working to improve veteran's benefits, and fighting racism, homelessness and injustice. They said VVAW must continue the struggle in these areas and to speak out in schools and elsewhere for peace and social justice in the future. A showing of the video "Only the Beginning" followed their remarks.
A panel on VVAW and the media, hosted by author Richard Stacewicz ("Winter Soldiers: An Oral History of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War"), then convened. Participants included John Prados ("The Hidden History of the Vietnam War"), Jerry Lembcke ("The Spitting Image"), Andrew Martin ("Receptions of War: Vietnam In American Culture") and Professor Joe Miller. They gave presentations on their writings and opinions and then fielded questions from the audience.
The media panel was followed by remarks from the various VVAW contacts present and then an open mic ensued where many longtime members talked about what VVAW has meant to them and related colorful stories, many of which were quite humorous. It should be noted that former national coordinator Bill Davis, who missed his true calling and should have been a comedian instead of a "hammer mechanic," interjected smart-assed comments from his seat throughout this portion of the event.
John Zutz's most memorable moment of the anniversary came when John Lindquist admitted that he'd begun the myth of the "spat-upon Vietnam veteran." Zutz said, "Longtime VVAW members will know Lindquist as a gung ho Marine. It's hard to believe he was even more gung - and extremely ho - when he joined the Corps. As he walked through the airport on his way to basic training he spotted a lonely ensign walking toward him. He knew Navy and Marine personnel despised each other and he felt he needed to express this disdain. So he hawked up a juicy loogie, spat it on the floor and said, 'Float your boat in that one, swabbie.'"
After a break for supper, the evening concert/social time kicked off at 8:00. Guests were treated to the Irish music of Matt Stewart and Lisa Boucher, the avant-garde music of Billy Curmano, a solo performance by Country Joe McDonald and a joint presentation of poetry by M. L. Liebler accompanied by the music of Country Joe. Rounding out the evening was a very entertaining encore performance by Matt Stewart and Lisa Boucher.
Dave Kettenhofen is a member of VVAW's Milwaukee Chapter and a former national coordinator of VVAW.
Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors
WHEREAS, the Milwaukee Chapter of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc. is hosting the national organization's 35th Anniversary Celebration in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 21-22, 2002; and
WHEREAS, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc. is a national veterans' organization founded by six Vietnam veterans in 1967 to voice the growing opposition among returning servicemen and women to the war in Indochina; and
WHEREAS, membership in Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc. in the late 1960s rapidly grew to over 30,000 members in the United States and included active GIs still stationed in Vietnam; and helped U.S. civilians come to understand the harsh reality and unjust nature of the war; and
WHEREAS, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc. quickly entered the struggle for appropriate medical care, mental health services, educational opportunities and employment prospects for returning service personnel; and
WHEREAS, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc. continues to be a voice of clarity and reason raising questions about continuing American military support of undemocratic and repressive regimes around the world; and
WHEREAS, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc. works for justice for all homelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder and other health problems - while opposing cutbacks or elimination of vital services for veterans, now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED, that members of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors. on the motion of Supervisors Roger Quindel, Kathleen S. Arcizewski, Elizabeth M. Coggs Jones, James J. Schmitt, John F. Weishan, Jr., T. Anthony Zeilinski, and County Board Chairman Karen M. Ordinans, do herewith honor Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc. for their achievements, commend their dedicated efforts and contributions to the nation and wish for their continued success in future endeavors.
Karen M. Ordinans, Chairman
Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, June 21, 2002