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Page 20
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James Edward Pechin (1947-2002)

By Joe Bangert

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Jim Pechin, 54, a long-time leading Vietnam veterans' advocate, succumbed after a long battle with the effects of Agent Orange, hepatitis and diabetes on Sunday, February 26, 2002 at 3:20 a.m. in his hospital bed with his boots off in York, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Pechin was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana. A graduate of Central Catholic High School, Mr. Pechin earned his bachelor's degree in business management from Indiana State University, and completed postgraduate studies at Lone Mountain College in San Francisco.

He was a U.S. Army war veteran who served fourteen months in Nha Trang, Vietnam as a helicopter machine gun door gunner. He was a lifelong friend to Steve Sherlock, who went to high school with Jim. Jim returned from Vietnam in 1969 and was a founding member of VVAW in Indiana.

Jim was a survivor of Operation Dewey Canyon III, where he and a thousand other Vietnam veterans seeking an immediate end to the war in Vietnam returned their medals in protest to Congress in April 1971. Along with his hippie minions from the University of Indiana at Bloomington, Jim set up a "people's kitchen" that fed the masses for both Dewey Canyon III and May Day 1971. He became friends and comrades with thousands of fellow veterans who marched from all over the country to bring our brothers home, now.

Jim resided in northern California in the early 1970s and was instrumental in creating alternative business structures with human and equitable reward systems. He was a leading member of the Flower of the Dragon, who along with Jack McCloskey pioneered in obtaining treatment for heroin addicts flooding back from Vietnam and staying in the Bay Area. He later was a founding member of Swords to Plowshares in San Francisco.

Pechin later moved to Washington, DC, where he joined Bobby Muller in organizing, financing and founding both the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation as well as the Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc., the first Congressionally-chartered organization of Vietnam-era veterans in the United States. He also acted as business manager for both organizations.

Jim was with the first group of Vietnam veterans to return to Vietnam in the early 1980s, and was one of only a handful of early advocates of full normalization of relations with Vietnam. A tireless advocate of counseling and compensation for his brother Vietnam veterans, his passing has left a very large gap within their ranks.

During the past four years Jim operated and managed the Veterans' Thrift Store in downtown York, Pennsylvania. He was a founding member of Aid to Southeast Asia (ASA), which continues to heal the wounds of war in Vietnam.

He is survived by his beloved mother, Mrs. Loretta Pechin; three sisters, Mrs. Sharla Gray, Mrs. Theresa Kline, and Mrs. Pam Van Laere; two nieces and a nephew; his godson, Bart Balyard; and thousands of Vietnam veterans whose lives he touched all across this land.

Ten Hut! Comrade Jim Pechin, we salute you. Brother, you were always there for us, and we will never, ever, forget you nor your contributions!

I personally will never forget the Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Parade in the Windy City, which had us all smiling and partying. I also remember holding court with Jim on the roof of his apartment across the street from Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor along with SS. It was late at night, and VVAW had been celebrating its 25th anniversary at Howard University. Afterwards we were drinking cold beers, some whiskey perhaps, and taking a few tokes of bronchial dilators from Uncle Ho's Victory Garden -- Hanoi Gold. Jim then pleaded with me to sing, a capella, the "Ballad of Uncle Ho" as well as "We will Liberate the South," in Vietnamese.

Jim was a lifelong Buddhist yippie reformed Cao Daist!

A lotus blossom has fallen!

Rest in Peace, dear brother! I'm not afraid to say I loved you.

Hoa binh mai mai ("peace forever"), over and out.

Donations in memory of Jim Pechin may be sent to:

Aid to Southeast Asia, Inc. (ASA)
1316 4th St. SE, 2nd Floor
Minneapolis, MN 55414

Phone 612-378-9491
Fax 612-378-9479
E-mail <sherlockasa@qwest.net>


Joe Bangert served with VMO-6 (Marine Observation Squadron 6) in Quang Tri, Vietnam, 1968-1969.
Bangert joined VVAW during the summer of 1970 and participated in Operation RAW,
WSI and Operation Dewey Canyon III in Washington, D.C.

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