The Anger Within --
I need to tell you about an incident I witnessed--an incident of
It occurred at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
on Veterans Day.
I watched from afar as a woman thwarted, struck out in anger. Her
shocked me! I was appalled, embarrassed. That woman whose boiling
How do I explain this? Where to start? How far back do I go (to Vietnam?)
up the loose threads of this story, and begin to unravel the emotions
want to express
For the past eleven years I have been actively involved with Vietnam
and veteran's issues. Prior to that I had consciously or not, disassociated
my Vietnam experience for the many intervening years since my return
1969. I had
no particularly horrible memories to forget, nor any good ones to
cherish either it seemed.
I felt comfortable simply forgetting I had ever been to Vietnam.
It was OK
to feel nothing about Vietnam--until the dedication of the Wall in
The dedication of that memorial opened doors to the past I was not
needed opening. After seeing the Wall, I had an overwhelming urge
to get in
with other Vietnam veterans again, particularly women veterans. I
to reclaim, and validate that experience. I needed to give meaning
and I wanted
to understand what those 15 months "in country" meant to
In quest of answers, I instantly went from one extreme to another.
to being a "joiner". First I joined the League of Families
POW/ MIA's; then Vietnam
Veterans of America; the Vietnam Womens' Memorial Project; the Army
Services Reunion Committee; and finally The Circle of Sisters...Circle
Friends. I was
so busy, that for years my entire personal and social life revolved
and veteran's activities. Vietnam, once so easily forgotten, seemed
into my life with a vengeance!
About a year ago, I met another non-military veteran of Vietnam.
had gone to Vietnam in the 60's as a civilian volunteer. I went with
Services, she with the American Red Cross. We shared many of the
about our "tour of duty" in Vietnam. We also both worked
Coordinators for the
Women's Memorial, and we felt civilian service, and especially the
civilian casualties of the war were being totally ignored. We decided
to be done about it.
First we went to our Vietnam Veterans of America Inc. national
with a resolution
asking for voting membership in our organisation instead of associate
We hoped that being accepted and recognised for our service, by our
would help validate civilian contributions to the war effort, and
and closure to that experience for many of us. The subject was addressed
delegates at the national convention but turned down. We had shared
with them, and had gone to Vietnam in support of them, but we weren't
welcome as equal members.
If anyone would understand, we expected they would. What a disappointment!
We then approached the Vietnam Women's Memorial Project (VWMP). Jolynne
and determined that 56 American civilian women died in Vietnam in
Wouldn't it be a great idea to somehow recognize these women and
sacrifice, at the same time as the dedication of our nation's first
memorial honoring women?
We felt that honoring our dead too would be a way of acknowledging
in general, and their loss of life in particular. We asked the VWMP
special to honor these 56 forgotten casualties of the Vietnam war.
turned us down
It was then we realized if anything was to be done to recognise civilian
the civilian women who had served in Vietnam--would have to do it
Jolynne and I organized the Circle of Sisters...Circle of Friends,
no D.C. contacts, very little time, and alot of determination, accomplished
told us was the impossible. We were able to convince the powers that
we weren't two crazy women from the West; we really had been in Vietnam
war; that 56 additional American women--not just the 8 military nurses--had
also died in
Vietnam, and they too deserved to be remembered.
Finally, 90 days prior to dedication of the Women's Memorial, we
was granted, and permits issued for a special memorial ceremony at
With yards of red tape trailing behind us, we hastily finalised
and I then set out for D.C. with a great sense of accomplishment,
to proudly dedicate
the Women's Memorial, and to honor our civilian sisters at the Wall.
What should have been a joyful and exciting day for me turned into
I was to present the floral wreath for Army Special Services at the
on November 11th. The day turned out to be a gorgeous sunny day,
colors. I was so excited walking down the walkway toward our memorial
carrying those thick, waxy, crimson red antherium, and golden birds
paradise. I thought,"At
last! We've worked long and hard to get here, but finally, those
know that women, military and civilian have served their country
Just then a short, baby-faced, D.C. motorcycle cop stepped in front
my way, and said I could go no further. The immediate area around
was roped off and accessible to VIP's only, he said. I tried explaining
I had an invitation and a pass to enter the area, but in my excitement
left it behind in my purse. He didn't care. No pass. No admission.
it all. His stony indifference to my pleas was so very apparent,
At that moment something strange happened. It was a though I stepped
from the confrontation
and totally out of my own body!
I could see myself at a distance arguing with the officer. Then I
They came up out of the ground beneath my feet. Boiled up through
out from my shoulders--straight out over my head with such force
me. I was engulfed in orange flames. But at the same time, I was
looking into those baby-cop eyes, barely visible below the rim of
thinking "Sweetpea, you weren't even born when all these men
in Vietnam, and I'll be damned if I let you stop me from presenting
flowers in their
memory. I'm coming through." I heard the voices of common sense
saying, "Don't do
it. It's not worth it. The chief won't like it". (The chief
boss the Police
Chief). But another unfamiliar voice said, "Fuck it! He's not
expecting it. Hit him!"
So I did.
And from a distance--as far away as Vietnam perhaps--I watched
"her" as she lifted
the floral wreath, and using it as a battering ram, knocked that
of the law out of her way.
BOILING, ROILING, ORANGE FLAMES ! Where did they come from?
Army Special Services