[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from History.com for November 15.]
Within the context of nation-wide protests against the Vietnam War, the “second” so-called moratorium occurred 47 years ago, yesterday, mainly in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco; the first took place just a month before on October 15, 1969.
Sowing the Seeds of PTSD
I haven’t a clue as to when PTSD began taking root in my psyche. I can point to many horrific assaults on my senses, any one of which could qualify as the first germ. Or, I can look back on the entire combat experience, starting as the empty vase of my brain and then adding fertilizer to it, day after rotten day, with sights, sounds, and actions all foreign to me before Vietnam.
I mustered out of the Army in July 1967. I returned to college and finished my bachelor’s degree between September 1967 and May 1970. These dates are important to me because, although I was getting on with my life, the war continued and there was nothing I could do about that.
Truth be told, I didn’t know then what to think of war protestors. I’m still not sure. But the point is: I did not participate. This is how History.com records the events of November 15, 1969.
Second moratorium against the war held
Following a symbolic three-day “March Against Death,” the second national “moratorium” opens with mass demonstrations in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
Mood in D.C. at the beginning …
Organized by the New Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (“New Mobe”), an estimated 500,000 demonstrators rallied in Washington as part of the largest such rally to date. It began with a march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Washington Monument, where a mass rally and speeches were held. Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and four different touring casts of the musical “Hair” entertained the demonstrators.
Mood in D.C. as it evolved …
Later, violence erupted when police used tear gas on radicals who had split off from the main rally to march on the Justice Department. The crowd of about 6,000, led by members of the Youth International Party (“Yippies”), threw rocks and bottles and burned U.S. flags. Almost 100 demonstrators were arrested.
“violence,” “tear gas,” “radicals,” “threw rocks and bottles,” “burned U.S. flags,” “arrested” — In Vietnam, parallel words implied, to me, confusing yet familiar vocabulary: “combat,” “cyanide hand grenades,” “Viet Cong,” “snipers,” “napalm,” “captured.”
The largest protest outside Washington was held in San Francisco, where an estimated 250,000 people demonstrated. Antiwar demonstrations were also held in a number of major European cities, including Frankfurt, Stuttgart, West Berlin, and London. The largest overseas demonstration occurred in Paris, where 2,651 people were arrested.
So, I don’t know exactly when darkness began to creep across my grey matter. To recall virulent days such as November 15, 1969, however, I can make an educated guess that one of the skills I learned to develop during my college years was the ability to bury—at least for then—the gory loss of my innocence. What I have learned since those days is that moratoria offer only temporary relief from deep-seated demons. But the search continues.
The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.