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Page 34
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Long Shadows

By John Fournelle (reviewer)

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Long Shadows: Veterans' Paths to Peace
edited by David Giffey
(Atwood Publishing, 2006)

Madison Wisconsin Veterans for Peace Clarence Kailin Chapter 25 has reprinted this compelling book that presents the personal stories of 19 veterans of 8 wars, from the Spanish Civil war up to Iraq and Afghanistan, including the Yom Kippur war.

"There is an immense literature of war, so any new entry into that formidable body of narratives, commentaries, analyses, and memories needs to be looked at carefully to see if it adds something significant to our knowledge of war and those who are drawn into it. I believe that this book meets that test and informs and touches us in ways that we will not easily forget." These words from Howard Zinn's powerful introduction provide a terse summary of the wars that the United States has perpetrated, going back to the foundation of the United States. Zinn's introduction in itself stands as a terse recap of the USA's wars going back to the Revolutionary War, with some facts seldom found in our schools' history books, such as desertion and rebellion in Washington's army.

Robert Kimbrough said he became a pacifist the first day on the line in Korea: "I was first put in charge of the light machine gun squad, and my sergeant was showing me the line: the trench lines, the dugouts, the fields of vision, the fields of fire. Suddenly the Chinese side started shooting at me. And I thought to myself, 'Why is anyone shooting at me? They don't have anything against me. I don't have anything against them.' And I suddenly realized, 'Hey, dummy, you're not in your backyard with your fingers playing "boom-boom, you're dead."' It came home to me 'This is not good.'"

Ten of the veterans were in Vietnam. Will Williams presents a powerful account that starts with growing up as a black man in Jim Crow Mississippi, then to Vietnam. "Vietnam made me. I grew up fast in Vietnam. It made me look at life, at all people, as being sacred. There's the pain that I never shake from it. I know I'll never get rid of it." When he returned, he said he'd have been living out in the woods if he hadn't had his wife. "I didn't want to be around people. I was dealing with a lot of Vietnam in the 1980s. I was having a lot more flashbacks and nightmares." When Desert Storm happened, he started to get upset about it but didn't see what he could do. But, he says, "September 11 changed that. I just reached a point where I couldn't keep it in any more…. I found out who I was, what I stood for, and that there's nothing on this earth can make me change back. … That's why I joined the Madison Area Peace Committee. … I think if I was of the age I am now when the draft was going I would say No. I'd steal my grandkids out of the military."

The lives of all these veterans were touched by war, and all, by one path or another, ended up as activists against war. Their experiences told them that all that they had been told about why war was necessary were all lies. War can never solve problems, only create or perpetuate existing problems.

The editor, David Giffey, is a Vietnam veteran. He served as a combat journalist and is a member of VFP Clarence Kailin Chapter 25 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Copies of Long Shadows are available for purchase. To provide them as a peace resource to teachers, libraries, peace groups and peace-minded-people, Madison VFP is offering them at 50% off the cover price ($20): only $10 a copy, plus shipping ($3.50 media mail, $7.75 priority mail). (Bulk and low-income discounts available). Contact John Fournelle, jhfour@gmail.com if you are interested.

John Fournelle was active against the American war in Vietnam in the late 1960s in DC. Gen. Hershey found him "unfit for military service" at Ft Holabird in 1971. He is an associate member of Madison VFP.

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