Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Life in late 60’s Midwest.

Today, in 1969, I arrived in Minneapolis, Minnesota to finish out my 18 month Army service commitment. I was assigned to the Minneapolis AFEES station, located in the Federal Building, located at Third Avenue And Washington S. 

The midwest back then was a hot bed of activism. Minneapolis had protests of some kind every day it seemed. The Federal Building was a straight shot from the University of Minneapolis down Washington Avenue, making it an easy target and rallying point to voice displeasure with Nixon’s government. 

I had just arrived back from one year of service in Vietnam. When I went to Vietnam, in December of 1967, I knew very little about it or the war that was going on there. I had not yet taken a position on the war, although I did have some strong feelings aligned with the anti-war movement. 

It did not take me long after arriving in Qui Nhon, Vietnam, where I served my year long commitment, to figure out just what was going on in Vietnam and to form a strong aversion to it. 

Basically, the Vietnamese people were only trying to get back their independence from colonial powers….a fight that they had been waging for most of their existence. And we were considered just another colonial power. The Vietnamese people were blackmailed into accepting our assistance by agreeing to doing it our way. 

When I arrived in Minneapolis, I became a roommate with one of the guys already assigned to duty at AFEES. Most of the single guys, of which I was one, lived around the University district, which at the time was in constant evolution surrounding social issues. It was almost as if the movement was an organism unto itself. People just hopped on for the ride. And what a ride it was. 

I became friends with many people directly involved in “the movement”. I knew many organizers and significant players, as well as dozens of members of one small movement or another. 

I spent my weekends involved in marches, sit-ins, protests and just hanging out with like minded people, learning and observing. 

It was an easy choice for me. These people needed my perspective as a soldier and I needed their emotional energy to validate my strong anti-war, anti-corruption, anti-military industrial complex stands. My value as a person “on the inside”, especially the fact that I worked at the Induction Station, grew day by day. It was not long before I was pulled closer into the center of operations.

One particular evening, one of my friends, introduced me to a person who wished to talk to me. He was a leader in the local SDS faction. He explained that they needed some ‘special access’ to The Federal Building to carry out their ongoing protests against the government. He told me all I needed to do is leave one of the basement doors ajar when leaving for the evening. 

Well, the choice was easy for me. I am not stupid. I told him that I would, in no way, jeopardize the safety or security of anyone, or my own future for an obvious act of direct action against the government of The United States………especially since I was, at that time, a soldier, which made my exposure even more dangerous. 

I continued to be involved in protests, demonstrations and was well aware that many of those groups were infiltrated by FBI and that my photos and files still exist somewhere in a dusty file cabinet. 

Ultimately, through a series of events, seemingly unconnected at the time, the Army figured out a way to punish me. They gave me an Article 15 and took away my combat grade of E-5 which I earned in Vietnam about a month before I was discharged. 

It has been a long fight. The fight continues. 

It is time to reflect and relearn the things we learned in the 60s. The fight is exactly the same. 

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