VVAW: Vietnam Veterans Against the War
About VVAW
Contact Us
Image Gallery
Upcoming Events
Vet Resources
VVAW Store


(This commentary piece also appears in THE VETERAN, Spring 2023 (Volume 53, Number 1).)

While Comrades Fade, Hard Lessons Remain

By Bill Branson

[Printer-Friendly Version]

From the National Office

From where we are now, there is more in the rearview mirror than looking out the windshield.

As time marches forward, not all of our comrades stay with us. In this issue, a few more obits for folks who have passed - from the nationally known to those known only by their families and VVAW brothers and sisters.

We are especially moved by the loss of VVAW board member Marty Webster. Marty rejoined VVAW in the wake of GWBs invasions. He had the gift of being able to talk to almost anyone and really listen to them. He helped respond to the varied calls that came to the NO, whether someone needed something or just needed a sympathetic ear. He also relished working with the AO kids.

Marty was excited about the children's libraries we are building in Vietnam. He understood the importance of leaving traces of VVAW's legacy behind. He was proud of the trip he took along the west coast with Barry Romo in 2009 to visit old and new members. His laugh, even at his own bad jokes, was infectious. He was a stand-up comrade and a dedicated VVAW member. Marty, you will be missed.

As we write this, the second VVAW-funded library project is nearing completion. We hope you can help us make our fundraising goal for this library, so maybe we can find the resources to fund another.

Looking back 50 years to 1973, it's amazing how much VVAW accomplished. As we moved forward in our struggle to end the US war in Vietnam we also began to move on issues and campaigns linked to the US imperial might. From helping defend Gary Lawton, to providing support to Wounded Knee to taking over VA offices. One of the metrics of success was the repressive response from our government, which increasingly tried to put VVAW behind bars. We fought all these efforts and often managed to use these battles to build the organization.

What did we learn from all of this? Plenty. Branching out helped us build key allies who helped defend us. Branching out could also contribute to a lack of focus and a weakening of VVAW's veteran base.

How do these lessons help us and the social justice movements of today? Broadening was important but we realized we needed to keep our focus on veterans and anti-war work clear and primary. We made sure that the struggle to end the war, for a veterans' base and focus, was kept front and center. We could not help other causes if we were not clear on our own mission.

Back in 1951, in his farewell address, Douglas MacArthur said "Old soldiers never die—they just fade away." We in VVAW honored our forebears in the Bonus Army of the 1930s and the heroes of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade by NOT fading away. We continued their struggles and sacrifices for peace and social justice. The powers that be could not crush our will to fight. We are gray and wizened in appearance. We have lost comrades. However, our will to continue on has not diminished. The spirit found in these pages reflects the promise…we are not just fading away.

Bill Branson is a member of the VVAW Board.

Marty Webster, ¡Presente!

Marty Webster and Annie Bailey at VVAW's 40th Anniversary in 2007. R.I.P. to both of them.

Louie De Benedette and Marty Webster at IVAW's Winter Soldier in 2008. R.I.P. to both of them.

Commentary on VVAW.org: