Tag Archives: Vietnam War

The Monuments by Worcester City Hall

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The George Hoar monument

By Gordon Davis

Yesterday morning a friend called me to get historical information about the Worcester Common, behind our City Hall.  She has lived in Worcester for most of her life. She has seen the Common go through several iterations.

She is too young to remember the Old South (Congregational) that doubled as a religious meeting house and the Town Hall.  The cemetery in the Common is of parishioners. The Church still exists on Salisbury Street.

She is not too young to remember the so called reflecting pool that only seemed to collect trash and restrict the foot traffic flow through the park area. The architect seemed not to have read Jane Jacobs!

The jury is still out on the Ice Oval which doubles as a skating rink in the winter and a sitting/eating area in the summer. I have never used the skating rink, but I like the tables and sun umbrellas in the summer.

Monuments sprinkle the Worcester Common and nearby area.  Some of them are relatively new.

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There is a monument concerning the genocide of Armenian people by the Turks during World War I.  This monument is located on the right hand side of the front of City Hall as you face City Hall.

There is also an Irish Cross which symbolizes the 1916 Easter Rebellion by the Irish Republican Army against British rule.

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Korean War memorial

The number of war memorials is surprising. The most surprising is that of the anti-imperialist and anti-racist founder of Worcester Polytechnical Institute, George Hoar (above). His image sits majestically wondering why the City has not changed much of its war mentality or its racist policies. Mr. Hoar opposed the Spanish American War.

The City has honored Colonel Biglow of Worcester who fought against he British in the War of American Independence.

The Civil War memorial has the names of the 398 soldiers from Worcester who died fighting the racist Confederacy and its system of chattel slavery.
 
There is a relatively new monument to the brave trooper who gave their lives in the Iraq Wars I and II. I suppose we will have to modify the monument to include Iraq War III.

On the side of City Hall there is a statue of an American GI. This generation fought the Nazis and the Axis of Fascism, Germany, Italy, and Japan government.  The Honor Roll of Black Veterans should be erected next to it, instead of on the isolated traffic island in Lincoln Square.
 

Across the street from the Worcester Commons is the first Vietnam War memorial. It predates the extravagance in Green Hill Park.  I thought for a while no knew that it existed, but every once and while I see flowers there.

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A few blocks away is the Korean War memorial (above). Although the statue is moving, it is pretext. Nonetheless, the soldiers who died and fought there performed their duty as they understood it. 

Unfortunately, it has the feel of the Western savior. Many more Koreans died in that Cnflict than Westerners.

The Worcester Common’s character changed when the Worcester Regional Transportation moved it busses to the Hub.

What will our Common be like with the demolition of Notre Dame and finished construction of City Square?

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America: land of the warmongers

By Michael True

In public addresses, President Obama assures us that the U.S. military command is greater than any other in the world. One wonders if he is aware that the U.S. has not won a war since 1945, as historian Andrew Bacivich suggests.

Since the Vietnam War, U.S. policy makers and military commands responsible for U.S. interventions have not quite lived up to the president’s billing.

The cost has been enormous, in dead and injured Americans and wasted resources. The results, including the ignominious defeat in Vietnam, have left the U.S. and the world in worse shape than before.

Following the War in Iraq, arguably the worst military disaster in American history, U.S. interventions continued up to and including the one in Afghanistan. Wounded veterans from each conflict returned home, many ending up homeless or suicidal.

In spite of these disasters, as James Atlas points out in a recent issue of The Atlantic, the American public still regards the U.S. armed forces more favorably than other essential government services such as Medicare and Social Security. A central question posed by Atlas is one that has not been fully addressed either during or since the Vietnam War: “Who is held responsible for these interventions – some of them further destabilizing regions where the U.S. was involved?”

And yet, Congress and the Pentagon lobby keep insisting on more and more military expenditures, even though the U.S. military budget is larger than either China’s or Russia’s, and almost equals military expenditures of all nations in the world combined.

As a line in a Denise Levertov poem says, “The same war continues.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. infrastructure deteriorates, and Congress cuts Food Stamps allotments, while a fourth of our nation’s children under five years old live below the poverty line.

Many factors have contributed to this sad state of affairs, in domestic as well as foreign policy, in a culture of violence since Vietnam.

And do we ever learn from our mistakes?

Although it has been 50 years since the Vietnam War began in the early 1960s and 40 years since it ended, full knowledge of its consequences escapes us, in spite of numerous novels and poems, debates and histories, memoirs and films and debates and films and debates about the films.

Initially, several of the so-called “best and brightest who lied and plunged us into that disaster,” including the late U.S. Secretary of State Robert McNamara, acknowledged that it should never have happened. As with other accounts, his admission was helpful. Nonetheless, a fuller accounting and deeper understanding of the war awaits us, if we are to understand how it resulted in the massacre of more than 2 million Vietnamese, 58,000 Americans, and numerous allies on either side.

Among recent accounts that I am familiar with, Nick Turse’s Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, 2013, occupies a special place, particularly on the basis of new information focusing on the war’s impact on the native population and the suffering they endured.

For the Vietnamese, the war was “an endless gauntlet of potential calamities,” according to Turse, with innocents ”killed for the sake of a bounty or shot in a garbage dump, forced into prostitution or gang-raped…run down for sport on a roadway or locked away in jail to be tortured without the benefit of trial.” These crimes, the various essence of war, Terse adds, “went on all the time all over South Vietnam for years.”

Following its failed war in the jungles of Vietnam, the U.S. briefly soft-pedaled its imperial pretensions. After 9/11, however, the Bush administration seemed to feel that the U.S. had to bomb somebody.

Pressured by Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and other militarists in the Bush cabinet and cheered on by the shameless media, the U.S. invaded Iraq, even though there were no nuclear weapons and no Iraqis were 9/11 terrorists. That intervention, costing taxpayers more than $3 trillion, turned out to be perhaps the worst foreign policy disaster in American history.

Forty years from now, perhaps, we may get a more complete acccount of a war that was fundamentally wrong and immoral, killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, thousands of Americans, and further destabilizing the Middle East.

After that, President Obama repeated policies initiated by President Bush, including torture and strikes by MQ-l Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones,  terrorizing innocent civilians in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. One report stated that the ratio of deaths from the strikes over a three-year period was 50 civilians for every militant – a hit rate of 2 percent.”

U.S. military expenditures in Afghanistan exceed $100 billion, in the fifth poorest and second most corrupt nation in the world. Sixty-eight percent of people there live on less than $1 a day, and only 23% of the population has access to sanitary drinking water.

Although Americans are aware of major wars that the U.S. has been involved in, we often fail to realize that violence and militarism characterize our foreign policy throughout history.

General knowledge about various incidents are missing in standard history of the U.S. since about 1890. Recent accounts, such as The Untold History of the United States, 2012, occasionally provide further details on policies and events on the basis of new revelations.

Even when one disagrees with documentation and commentary, such as Stone’s and Kuznick’s, they foster lively debate that enhances public discussion in the long run and add detailed information seldom available through conventional histories and popular media. Acknowledging America’s affirmation of freedom and liberty, they also reflect on how those values have been buried “in the ruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the jungles of Southeast Asia, and the sands of the Middle East.”

In the recent past, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives have continued to fail us, particularly on issues of foreign policy. So we learn – after the fact – about their approving our country’s global surveillance, something which alienates our friends abroad and undermines civil liberties at home.

Is there any hope of altering the priorities of the U.S. in our foreign policy?

Probably not, as long as the American public remains ignorant of their consequences and the elected officials who supported them remain in office. As a nation, we appear not to have learned what General Smedley Butler taught 70 years ago: ”War is a racket.”

At the moment, neither political party effectively challenges or addresses these serious issues. Democrats remain divided on many of them, while Republicans oppose almost any foreign policy proposal from the White House, primarily to make President Obama look bad.

The same is true, unfortunately, regarding domestic, as well as foreign policy. During the recession, for example, Republicans opposed the president’s efforts to revive the American economy. Ignoring them, Obama succeeded in improving the situation while lowering the national debt at the same time. Since then, Republicans have pressed for austerity measures similar to those responsible for serious economic consequences in Europe and Japan. It does so in spite of the fact that Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman indicated repeatedly in his New York Times column, that such austerity measures would only weaken our economy.

None of this will change until an aroused public challenges lockstep Republicans and cautious Democrats to redirect policies that perpetuate chaos at home and abroad. Altering the situation requires persistent legislative and nonviolent action by a significant number of Americans. Similarly, improving the state of the union means responding to and affirming the interests not of the wealthy and powerful few, but of the overwhelming majority.

Michael True was an English professor at Worcester’s Assumption College for many years. He’s one of Worcester’s most eloquent peace activists. 

Worcester County’s Veterans …

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Image from The National Veterans Art Museum. The National Veterans Art Museum inspires greater understanding of the real impact of war with a focus on Vietnam. The museum collects, preserves and exhibits art inspired by combat and created by veterans.

To learn more, click on the link below:

http://www.nvam.org/ 

… Homeless, but not Hopeless

By Maria Jannace

With the rate of U.S. homeless veterans doubling in the last five years,
organizations like Veteran Homestead are working hard to help achieve the “zero homeless veterans by 2015” goal.

Picture it. The year is 2015. Though the scars of wars from as far back as 50 years ago still grip the minds and bodies of hundreds of thousands of American veterans, there is some comfort in knowing that at least they all have a place they can call home.

Picture it. The year is 2012. More than 200,000 brave men and women who fought for your freedom are without homes. More than 400,000 veterans will experience homelessness at some time during the course of this year. It is stunning to know that veterans make up nearly a quarter of this nation’s entire homeless population.

A noble goal by the Department of Veterans Affairs is to end veteran homelessness by 2015. The crystal ball is a bit fuzzy, but given the critical nature of today’s statistics, nothing short of a miracle will bring the number of homeless vets down to a mere zero in the less than three short years ahead. The United States government is taking action and in July of this year, the U. S. Senate unanimously passed H.R. 1627, a bill that addresses several areas of concern for veterans, including health care, housing, education, and benefits. Thankfully, there are organizations founded and funded by private citizens that are also leading the charge to end homelessness among American veterans. One such organization is Veteran Homestead headquartered in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

Veteran Homestead founder and CEO Leslie Lightfoot served in the Army as a medic from 1967-1970. She spent two years at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany during the Vietnam War, witnessing – on a daily basis – injuries and deaths unimaginable by civilians. Her experience led her to become a Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress and she holds two Psychology degrees from Fitchburg State University. She has been serving the needs of the veteran community ever since she left the Army in 1970. In 1993, Lightfoot founded Veteran Homestead that now has six facilities throughout New England and Puerto Rico. It is a crushing task that faces Lightfoot and her accomplished team each day, but progress is being made.

“Almost half of all homeless veterans in America fought in Vietnam,” Lightfoot said. “But there are as many as 20,000 vets who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan and have become homeless in the past five years, including women veterans with children.”
Women are the fastest growing segment of veteran homelessness.

“Our military men and women who come back from war with traumatic brain injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are truly the ‘walking wounded,’” Lightfoot said. “They may not be missing an arm or a leg, but many are damaged deeply.”
The mission of Veteran Homestead is to minimize and even reverse that damage by providing medical, psychological, and spiritual care. For people like Adam Morse, Veteran Homestead has become a lifeline.

Morse was still in high school when he joined the National Guard, never expecting to see battle. Fate intervened, and Morse returned from battle emotionally scarred by the weight of his experience that led him to alcohol and drugs – a not unusual plight for homeless veterans. Morse has been sober for a year now, and he truly believes that Veteran Homestead saved his life and saved his family.

Andrew Rosacker had been a member of an elite Marine Corps anti-terrorist security team but was working with a civilian contractor for the State Department when he served in Iraq. Entering the city of Fallujah, he spotted a car speeding toward his vehicle. The car refused to stop. Rosacker opened fire. The vehicle stopped. The driver looked up at Rosacker. Smiled. Then pushed the button.

The explosion threw Rosacker from his vehicle causing traumatic brain injury. Then he was shot in the stomach and declared dead. After he was revived, he returned home and was diagnosed with PTSD and depression. He subsequently suffered a stroke that left his left side paralyzed. Sometimes his depression got so bad he would just turn off the lights and sit in the corner of a room and cry. Imagining a 6-foot-1 tough marine (and former Seal team member) crying alone is heartbreaking. But Rosacker, and many others, are making steady inroads into recovery at Veteran Homestead facilities including the recently opened Northeast Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Center (NVTRC) on 10 acres of land given by Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner.
The NVTRC, the only facility of its kind in the United States, sits on ten acres with twenty 2-bedroom homes, an indoor swimming pool, weight/exercise room, gymnasium, and other amenities designed to prepare residents for a life in which their disabilities will be less of a burden.

“The loss of a limb, a disfiguring burn, a traumatic brain injury, or an emotional scar due to post-traumatic stress are all life changing events that affect both the veteran and his family,” Lightfoot said. “The idea of not being a whole person or having your loved ones perceive you as someone much different than you were can leave emotional and psychological scars that dwarf the physical.”

NVTRC’s focus is on education (offering college courses in a partnership with Mount Wachusett Community College) and physical, occupational, and emotional therapy with an emphasis on family counseling along with the life and recreational skills that are so often taken for granted. The two-bedroom homes at the Center enable wounded warriors to practice daily living skills and provide privacy for both the veteran and his or her family. There is a therapy-dog training program there as well. Veteran Homestead endeavors to replicate the NVTRC facility model all across the United States.

Veteran Homestead is working to secure grants, but much of their support comes from private citizens and corporations that understand the importance of helping veterans revive their pride and become productive citizens. Unlike many charitable organizations, at Veteran Homestead, 90% of all funds go directly to programs that benefit the veterans. Only 10% is used to cover administrative support. And at all Veteran Homestead facilities, compassion is key. Beginning with Lightfoot herself and permeating throughout the staff at all six locations is a pervasive sense that “there but for the grace of God, go I.” Many on staff are veterans themselves.

They have lived the lives of their clients. They have been in the trenches and understand the gap in which veterans sometimes fall. Sometimes, it’s more than a gap – it’s a chasm. Lightfoot’s children – as she herself was – are exposed to the ordeals that can beset a body and mind with PTSD. Lightfoot’s Army daughter is a veteran of Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Her Air Force daughter is a veteran of Desert Storm and Iraq and has been in and out of Afghanistan. Lightfoot’s National Guard Son is a veteran of Afghanistan.

“Every soldier is someone’s child,” Lightfoot said. “We never forget that, and whether they are 22 or 62, these veterans have earned and deserve the utmost help and hope and a life of dignity. It is our deepest desire that by giving them a home – whether short or long term – and helping the healing process, these American heroes can accomplish the dreams they set forth before the cruel arms of war assaulted their lives.”
Dignity is at the center of daily life at Veteran Hospice Homestead in Fitchburg, a residential facility dedicated to veterans living with life threatening illness and the only privately run, veteran-specific hospice in the country. Hospice specialists provide innovative transitional housing programs for homeless veterans who are diagnosed with terminal illness and are no longer able to care for themselves.

Hero Homestead in Leominster is a facility designed for elderly veterans. Residents are encouraged to help each other and attend to as many of their own needs as possible.
Also in Leominster, Veteran Homestead operates Armistice Homestead in a beautiful neighborhood where veterans with a progressive outlook enjoy innovative programs that enhance camaraderie and accomplishment.

Ever looking to create environments that help veterans immerse themselves fully into quality living, Veteran Homestead developed The Victory Farm in New Hampshire, the first of its kind in the United States. It’s an 80-acre working organic vegetable farm that offers a lifestyle change to homeless veterans who have not been successful transitioning from residential treatment programs to independent or transitional housing. Veterans are responsible for the feeding and caring of dozens of animals and tend crops as well.

In Puerto Rico, Veteran Homestead’s large residential home – and the only such facility in this U.S. territory – is located in beautiful Caguas. The focus of Hacienda de Veteranos is restoring a sense of self-worth with therapy sessions provided by the Veterans Administration and in-house case managers.

With the rate of U.S. homeless veterans doubling in the last five years, organizations like Veteran Homestead are working hard to help achieve the “zero homeless veterans by 2015” goal. Lightfoot says she will continue to grow her nonprofit organization for “as long as it takes.” In January, Governor Patrick Murray announced that the state of Massachusetts had achieved a 21% decline in veteran homelessness from a year ago. Perhaps Massachusetts can lead the way in eliminating homelessness among our nation’s walking wounded. Perhaps Veteran Homestead can replicate its programs in other states so that they, too, can give help and hope to their citizens who have fallen into the chasm of homelessness after serving their country. Perhaps there is a future where heroes like former U. S. Navy Seal Andrew Rosacker never need to utter the words, “Sometimes I just cry.”