Report and photo by Ellen Davidson
By now, most of you probably know what a fabulous event Doug Rawlings put together yesterday. It worked out just as planned, with a dignified group of us walking along the wall laying the letters, and many reports of people picking them up and reading them and other interactions. People appreciated our presence and the messages on our shirts. Roger’s Bell Tower was spectacularly placed right near the Lincoln Memorial, attracting a lot of passersby. The weather was beautiful and we had a lovely celebration afterwards at one of the Busboys and Poets Cafes, where owner and activist Andy Shalal arranged for the cards printed with VFP’s statement of purpose to be included in the little folders that hold the checks as a special Memorial Day offering.
All in all, kudos to Doug, Roger, and all the folks who showed up, those who couldn’t come but sent their letters, and those whose spirits were with us in so many ways.
We are beginning a very important international campaign to preserve the veterans’ perspective of the Vietnam War: Vietnam War Full Disclosure Movement
by Doug Rawlings
We in Veterans For Peace (VFP) invite you to join us as we put together a special Memorial Day 2015 service. As many of you know, the year 2015 marks the fiftieth anniversary of what some consider to be the beginning of the American War in Vietnam– the deployment of the U.S. Marines to DaNang. The Department of Defense is very aware of the significance of this year and has mounted a heavily funded initiative to make sure that the younger generations of this country see the Vietnam War as a noble enterprise. Included in their efforts is a well-funded website as well as plans for annual celebrations, such as Memorial Day events around the country. They are planning to tell their version of the war for the next ten years.
However, we know that many of us disagree with their perspective, who see the war as, at the least, a grievous mistake if not an horrific crime. As we have already seen, the Pentagon will downplay or ignore this perspective in their narrative of the war. Thus, we in VFP have pledged to meet their campaign with one of our own — we call it the Vietnam War Full Disclosure movement (http://www.vietnamfulldisclosure.org). Please join us in more fully opening up the dialogue of how the history of the American War in Vietnam has to be told. We need to hear your voice. To begin with, we need you to write a letter. A special letter.
We are calling on concerned citizens who have been seared by this war to each send a letter addressing the Vietnam War Memorial (The Wall) in Washington, DC directly. We are asking you to share your memories of this war and its impact on your loved ones while expressing your concerns over future wars. Direct your words to those who died in the American War on Vietnam.
Our plans are to then gather boxes and boxes of letters from people like you who do not share the sanitized version of the Vietnam War advocated by the Pentagon. In order to bring as many of your voices into this dialogue, please send us your letter and then please send this request to ten of your friends and ask them to write their letters. And then ask them to send the request to ten of their friends. And ten more.
At noon on Memorial Day, May 25, 2015, we will place these letters at the foot of the Wall in Washington, DC as a form of remembrance. As a Vietnam War veteran myself, I share with many the belief that the Wall is no place for political events. I consider it to be sacred ground and will not dishonor this memorial with a political act. The placing of our letters at the Wall will be treated as a service, a commemoration of the terrible toll that war took on American and Southeast Asian families. And as a trumpet call for peace.
Once the letters have been placed, those of us who served in Vietnam will “walk the Wall,” i.e., we will continue to mourn our brothers and sisters by starting at the panel commemorating our arrival in Vietnam and finishing at the panel marking our departure from Vietnam. For me that involves a walk of about 25 paces, taking into account approximately 9800 American lives. But we will not stop there.
We will continue walking beyond the confines of the Wall to memorialize the approximately six million Southeast Asian lives also lost during that war. This will be a symbolic act, for if we were to walk the total distance needed to commemorate those lives lost, using the model of the Wall, we would need to pace 9.6 miles, a walk equivalent to the distance from the Lincoln Memorial to Chevy Chase, Maryland. Nevertheless, we will carry the memory of those lives as best we can.
If you wish to submit a letter that will be delivered to the Wall on Memorial Day, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org (with the subject line: Memorial Day 2015) or by snail mail to Attn: Full Disclosure, Veterans For Peace, 409 Ferguson Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27516 by May 1, 2015. Email letters will be printed out and placed in envelopes. Unless you indicate that you want your letter shared with the public, the contents of your letter will remain confidential and will not be used for any purpose other than placement at the Wall. If you do want us to offer your letter as a form of public witness, we will share it with others by posting it on a special section of our website. A select few may be read at the Wall on Memorial Day.
If you wish to physically join us on May 25th, please let us know beforehand by contacting us at the above addresses. Please stay in touch with us by visiting http://www.vietnamfulldisclosure.org/. And if you wish to make a donation to help us defray the costs of our action, feel free to do so by sending a check to the Vietnam Full Disclosure committee at Full Disclosure, Veterans For Peace, 409 Ferguson Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27516.
Since I will be coordinating this effort on behalf of Veterans For Peace, I will be happy to hear your suggestions on how we can make this event a more meaningful statement about the American War in Vietnam. You may reach me at email@example.com.
Thank you in advance for writing your letter. For joining in on the dialogue. For working for peace.