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Page 6
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The Show Goes On: VVAW Honors Veterans in the Concrete Bunker

By Ann Goethals

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VVAW held its 30th annual Veterans Day rally amidst construction on Lower Wacker Drive in Chicago. As the event began, Joe Miller reminded the crowd of about thirty people that this was National Veterans Awareness Week and that everyone should try to get into the schools to talk with kids about what it was like to go to war. The theme of the day, in the shadow of September 11 and the buildings around us, which gave a particular chill to the air, was "Justice, Not War." As speaker after speaker came to the podium the refrain was the same: let us not allow our leaders to continue with criminal activities, nor let unjust wars against innocent civilians in faraway places be justified by fear and rhetoric.

Joe Miller, after apologizing for his lack of preparation, gave a most lucid and forceful keynote speech on the things we should not forget. The first and perhaps most significant thing to remember, he said, was "our history and where we came from." He went on to talk about how VVAW members find it hard to believe they are still around fighting for peace thirty years after their first efforts to end the war in Vietnam, but sadly wars don't end, and so VVAW must keep on holding rallies and spreading the word that wars against civilian populations do not solve problems but create them. In particular, he mentioned that bombing the civilian population of Afghanistan was not going to remedy the situation, was not going to bring the terrorists to their knees, but indeed threatened to create more terrorists. He also reminded the crowd to remember exactly what justice is: an international court and not an undeclared air war and clandestine imprisonments. "And finally, I gotta say something about the flags," said Joe. He reminded us that, just as stereotyping served to oppress Arabs, Muslims and immigrants, so we should be on guard against generalizing about those who fly flags. "Not every one who flies a flag is a conservative. Not everyone in a uniform is the enemy."

Two guest speakers from Colombia, Edgar Parejas and Samuel Morales, spoke of the terror that the civilian population of Colombia has been experiencing, which has largely been assisted by American dollars and American military training. In particular, mention was made of the 126 union leaders that were assassinated during their struggle to organize Coca-Cola workers. The larger target of both speeches was the growing oppression brought on by corporate-led globalization propped up by the military. Parejas asked those present to join in the struggle against "the easy exploitation of our peoples and natural resources by multinational and transnational corporations," and stated repeatedly that "Plan Columbia is a plan of war." They both asked the American population to protest against the School of the Americas and indiscriminate American support of the paramilitary death squads which now rule Colombia.

On a lighter note, Barry Romo presented the first ever VVAW Winter Soldier Service Award to Jeff Machota, who virtually keeps our organization afloat: working on this newspaper, keeping the books and maintaining the VVAW website. Machota was presented with a plaque and a case of beer, and seemed awkwardly pleased with his newfound fame.

Tom MacGregor, a Franciscan lay missionary who lives in Colombia, served as translator and also brought the rally to a reverent close when he named those we should remember on this most solemn day. Unfortunately, the list is too long to quote, as both he and the crowd had no trouble thinking of those who have suffered and died because of war.


Ann Goethals, a long-time supporter of VVAW, is an English teacher at Niles North High School in Skokie, Illinois. She has created and implemented curricula on the literature of the Vietnam War at Niles North High School and presented her work at various conferences around the United States.

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