Tag Archives: Nam

Randy Ford Author- SELECTIVE SERVICE

SELECTIVE SERVICE

by Randy Ford

Along the Avenue late afternoon there were only a few people who paid attention to him. Those who recognized him didn’t see him. Those people who saw him wanted to ignore him, so everyone ignored him. Day after day people ignored him. Day after day he was ignored. Day after day people saw him picking through garbage cams amd ignored him.

People didn’t know his name. People didn’t know where he came from. People didn’t know his story. People didn’t take time to learn his story.

Among those who recognized him none remembered seeing him, remembered seeing him after they saw him picking through garbage cans. Some of these people saw him day in and day out, three or four times a day, picking through garbage and trash and wished he’d go away. Some saw him eat out of garbage cans and wished he would go away. As a homeless man he surely hurt business along the Avenue. And there was a stigma to being filthy, smelly, and a wasted human being, a wasted man who spent his time ravaging through garbage cans looking for something of value and something to eat.

What was his story? Who was he? Surely he had a story. Surely he had a family. Where was his family? Where did he come from? Were people looking for him? Was he considered a missing person? Was he on a list somewhere? Surely people were looking for him. Surely he had a family. Surely he was on list somewhere? Where were his parents? Were his parents alive? Did he have a family: brothers, sisters, ex- wives, sons or daughters? Was anyone looking for him? Did anyone care? Was he human?

How many people assumed he was dead? How many people assumed he was dead since no one seemed to care, or no one saw him? A family, a sister or a brother-in-law, surely. Surely, someone. Surely, someone remembered him. A father, a mother, a son, a daughter, surely? How long ago had someone stopped looking for him? How long ago had people assumed he was dead? How long ago had people stopped asking about him?

And where did he did sleep? And where did he sleep last night or night before? Did he sleep? No one knew.

Didn’t his ex-wives say he was dead? Didn’t his sons and daughters say he was missing? Missing? Missing? Missing? Missing from what? Missing in action! They said he was missing in action and made a big deal of Memorial Day. They made a big deal of Memorial Day because they hadn’t heard from him and assumed he was missing in action or wanted to believe he was MIA in Nam, MIA in Nan. They knew he was drafted and sent to Nam. Drafted after high school and sent to Nam where he became a grunt. Yes, a grunt, a grunt, grunt, always a grunt. So he was on a list somewhere.

So let’s give him a name. On a list somewhere, so let’s give him a name. Chuck. Chuck, Chuck, not Chpmunk or Chunky. No, far from chunky. Starving. Eating out of garbage cans. Chuck was the only person who could fill in blanks, but a mortar that was aimed at someone else scrambled his brain.

Though most people didn’t pay attention to him, Chuck always began by cursing war. War! War! Whose war? Who gave a damn? Who gives a damn? Many of his buddies were gone. Many were dead and buried. Some were buried along side other soldiers, and a few were still missing. MIA. MIA! That’s not to say that there weren’t many success stories, and some of those vets ate and shopped on the Avenue. Many weren’t missing.

Action Chuck saw and tried to put behind him haunted him. It haunted him just as a nickname war buddies gave him. He still lived war, war in Nam, only battlefields changed, and it affected him more than people imagined. He relived action, battles, murder, murder of women and children, and death, death, killing, people he killed, people he was expected to kill. That was why he swore, cursed and laughed, and talked to himself as he ate out of garbage cans. He was relatively young then, in his mid-fifties, but he looked old.

Obviously the system … THE SYSTEM … what system … failed him. His teeth were rotten and half-missing; he shuffled, and he had a diagnosis. He suffered from untreated diabetics. He was lucky he hadn’t lost a leg. He had old battle wounds. He was lucky he hadn’t lost his life. When people saw him, he was ridiculed and what you heard about him was mean. Of course I thought about buying him a meal and would’ve given him money if I thought he would buy food with it. (I never gave him anything. When he asked, I never gave him anything. When he held out his hand out, I never gave him anything. I saw his deteriorating condition, and it broke my heart; yet I never gave him anything.) I knew giving him money wouldn’t help him. I didn’t see what I could do. My father fought in World War II, and he didn’t end up homeless. I wanted to clean him up, take him home, but I never did. I never did because I was always on my way somewhere.

The next one to disturb me was an African American, who almost ran me over with his bicycle. I was standing on the Avenue, and he almost ran me over with his bicycle. He rode down the sidewalk, when it was against the law, and he was in his late fifties, in his late fifties and a vet and had never been to the VA. He’d never been to the VA for anything or so he said before he added, “Nobody cares over there.” Though I knew better, I nodded my head.

His voice was filled with emotion when he said, “They don’t help. Nobody does. Nobody helps. No they don’t.” Well, he looked me in the eyes, which made me feel uncomfortable, and then he said, “You better get out of my way before I explode, and I don’t think you want to see me, me, me explode!”

He never exploded (or did he?), so I never knew what could have happened. But from tone of his voice I knew he intended to do something. Then he said, “I was a hero in Nam, you know, but here at home, they treat me like a nigger.” He then saluted me and said, “You’re in my way.”

After that we spoke whenever we ran into each other. I never learned his name. For a time the Avenue must’ve been on his route and he continued, with his bicycle, to act as if he owned every sidewalk, of course. And after Nam, I suspect he felt we owed it to him, owed him every sidewalk. I saw him all over town riding his bicycle and sleeping on sidewalks. And after the war, we all… we all who came home were disappointed with how we were treated when we came home. Along with that we can say he was a damn hazard, but he didn’t care, a damn hazard and didn’t care. He shouldn’t have acted as if he owned the whole sidewalk or should’ve gone back to where he came from. Here, I have to be careful about what I say. People could take it the wrong way for when I was growing up, we sometimes called African Americans niggers when we knew better … we called them niggers when we knew better. Then we fought together, and our lives depended on each other. We loved to call them niggers, but during the war they became our buddies. Then Nam came and the shoe was on the other foot because some of us were grunts and former niggers were in charge of us. Now I can’t help but think about it whenever I see Sam (I finally learned his name) barreling toward me on his bicycle and riding it where he’s not suppose to. I think when I look into those coal black eyes … well, I know what I think. I think I owe my life to a black man or an African American who used to be a nigger to me, and I never knew whether to hug him or push him off his bike. Then he has the gall to say that we’re treating him like a goddamn nigger … a goddamn nigger saved my life goddamn it! I don’t know how he can say that we don’t care. He saved my life goddamn it. Our platoon accepted African Americans, in fact the whole army did, and we fought side by side, joked, laughed, ate mess together. We depended on them, and they depended on us. We depended on each other, and they became our brothers. But now he has the gall to say that we’re treating him like a nigger. During Christmas season, I even invited him into my home. Now does that seem like I’m …? Well, I’m not!

We saw each other whenever we could, though it brought back memories that were painful. From time I came back from Nam I knew that she would be part of my life, and after we met, which only happened after considerable effort on my part- after we talked we knew our bond was solid. I can say of her what I have doubtless said of myself: she shouldn’t blame herself. No, she shouldn’t. And I shouldn’t blame myself. Here we should pause and pay our respects to Guy. When I came back from Vietnam and had Shannon waiting for me, I returned to a job that I had before I got drafted. I loved people and selling and promoting so I was naturally drawn to the Avenue. Working there gave me enormous pleasure. I dreamed of someday owning my own bar and opening it on the Avenue, but that’s another story. I think looking at faces of other veterans on the Avenue is something that helped foster my desire to find Guy’s widow. A part of me resisted it; then I felt relieved when I began searching, and of course, I had Shannon’s support. We were in the same platoon. I was alive because of Guy, and he didn’t get a chance to resume life as a civilian. His son would never know him. Birthdays and holidays were particularly hard on Guy’s widow. “Reported Guy to his draft board!” His ex-wife reported Guy to his draft board. All blame that she assumed for it … now that it was too late … was something that I knew nothing about. We were on the move as part of a search and destroy mission. That was when we engaged the enemy. An immediate exchange of small arms fire occurred, two Americans were dead, but that was only the beginning of a firefight that lasted until dark. I can’t forget it and would always remember two troopers who were initially killed. I always think of them at odd times. A sniper in a tree shot one of them. And sniper who shot him was also shot. As I remember … generally, we didn’t celebrate anyone’s death, but this time we did. Still, it was horrible. Guy always covered my butt and I covered his, in our late teens, fresh out of high school, covering each other’s butt. Nice Christian boys, kind of rowdy, scruffy boys, Protestant, both of us had women back home. Guy told us he was married. When asked about it, he shrugged and lower his head. I carried a picture of Shannon and showed it to everyone. We could never get a straight answer from Guy, but we didn’t have courage to make an issue of it. He gave me Melvina’s name and asked me to contact her if anything happened to him. I said I would and he said he’d do the same thing for me since we’d do anything for each other. Not only did we cover each other’s butt but we were like family. We ate together, we slept together, laughed and cried together: we had a bond that couldn’t be broken. And he made the ultimate sacrifice for me, so I wasn’t about to go back on my word. Since he did that for me, the least I could do for him was to go see Melvina. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know her, and their boy Ted, and I’ve sort of adopted him. Melvina, a beautiful person, would sit in her living room whenever I went to see her and she wouldn’t mention Guy, though I could feel his presence in the room. After I gave them a small box with Guy’s things in it, I never knew what they did with the box or his things. They never said, and I never asked. That there wasn’t a picture of him in the house seemed strange to me … at first. Melvina told me that she sold her wedding ring and even sold it while Guy was alive. That proved to me that they were indeed married. Half time we sat there and didn’t say anything. We didn’t have to. Women like Melvina … she made me feel comfortable and she understood how close Guy and I were, and she kept her emotions out of our conversations, so we could really talk to each other … first about our families and then about other things. There was Vietnam, “Nam” to us who have been there; there were members of our platoon, our extended family; there were the trips to San Jose to see Melvina, and I considered her family too. Once a year I tried to make this trip. There were expenses that I didn’t mind, and this became a part of a routine that I followed for many years. Eventually Melvina’s side of the story came out. “And now what?” I asked. “I don’t think it would matter to Guy. There’s no need for you to beat yourself up over it. Remembering he was a hero. Why not remember the positive, when the negative was so horrible? Before he died, Guy asked me to look in on you. But I’m still curious? Did he know that he had a son? To me it’s unbelievable that he didn’t, but he never mentioned or showed me a picture of Ted.”

See. I had our marriage annulled. It was a very acceptable way for me to get out of our marriage, since I didn’t believe in divorce. To me,” she said, “we shouldn’t have gotten married. We eloped, as I remember. We shouldn’t have gotten married, but, but we couldn’t help … stop, stop when we should’ve stopped. Had to lie about our age in those days. Guy had a way with girls. You knew Guy. He had a way of talking. He was cool, and he knew it, and when I say I made a mistake I have to own up to it, it was just as much my fault as his. First time we did it, I couldn’t stopped him. He didn’t rape me, and when I turned up pregnant, I came up with the idea of eloping. At first I couldn’t have been happier. He could’ve taken me anywhere, and I wouldn’t have complained. There was a Justice of the Peace who knew we were lying about our ages: with a ring on my finger, I woke up next morning, questioning what I had done. The beautiful moment was over for me, and all I was left with was shame. At the same time I hoped my parents wouldn’t kick me out, so we went to live with them. I remember my dad telling me, “Guy is no good.” But what could I do then? That’s how young we were. We didn’t know what to do except move in with my parents. Rightly or wrongly, we had to depend on them. Because they weren’t about to let us … then there was Vietnam.” While she was telling the story about what she did to Guy, she took her time and it proved hard for her … except she said it felt good to talk to someone, especially to me. Living with her parents didn’t work out. She said the marriage wouldn’t have worked out anyway. Before Guy moved out, Melvina’s father arranged for an annulment. Then she notified Guy’s draft board, and they immediately drafted him. In the afternoon, after she finished her story, Melvina showed me that she’d kept a Purple Heart Guy received posthumously.

Then there was his son, a young man in his late twenties and good looking with blond hair and blue eyes and fair skin, and he was the spitting image of Guy. A handsome young man who was already balding and very much like his dead father, Guy, shot and killed thousands of miles from there and a quarter of a century before then. But Ted didn’t have to face the draft like his father did and once he came of age it looked as if he’d forgotten sacrifices his father made. For some reason he turned antagonistic towards both his mother and me, and I didn’t know why. Whenever I was around and he opened his mouth, he lashed out at his mother and me in an unkind way, and there was no need for it. He was nasty to me and yes his mother, forcing me to come to her rescue. It happened countless times, and I felt sorry for both them. And it got worse. I talked to his mother about it, but her response surprised me for she didn’t show any anger or frustration.

Like I said, her reaction surprised me. Yet she was a battler and no stranger to conflict. After having raised a son alone and having overcome adversity that often arose, she didn’t let her son bother her. Clearly this was someone she had given everything to and she wouldn’t stop giving to.

This was the prelude to us all going to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Of the four of us (Shannon also went), I was the least prepared. Yes, Ted went, and of course Melvina wept. We all grieved in our own way. Up and down the Wall that day, there had to have been hundreds like us, looking for names, and often etching them after they found them.

PFC Guy Wilson
1 January 1969
DAK To, Vietnam
Listed as KIA February 8, 1969

We had only been in Nam a short time.

And with me reliving Nam and Ted with his unexplainable rage and Melvina with tears and with Shannon supporting us, our experiences were no more or no less intense than it was for others there that day. More importantly it brought us together, and closeness we felt stayed with us.

Though I grew accustomed to scorn we received when we returned from Vietnam (I for one had half expected it), I was caught of guard by Ted’s hostility. It made me feel uncomfortable, and I think he could see it. Ted and I were sitting in the living room. Melvina and Shannon were off somewhere else. He wanted an opportunity to speak to me, I guess. Now it had been twenty-five years, and Ted and I hadn’t talked about his father. He was twenty-six then, more or less on his own and a father (though he didn’t live with mother of his child), and while he had never knew his father, he had by then become a successful man and unassailable in many respects.

For many years I remembered every word of our conversation. Usually when someone brought up Vietnam, I wouldn’t say much. But on that day there was only two of us, and Ted and I started talking. I said what I said with apprehension because I could see that he was agitated, but he insisted that we continue. He carried a small photograph of his dad in his wallet, which he showed me. It looked like Guy I knew and was taken when he was in high school, but remember we were just kids. Guy, oh Guy, which Guy? Now I wasn’t expecting this.
Guy saved my life, and his son wanted to know details. He pressed me for answers and wouldn’t give up until I told him everything. About a sharpshooter in a tree: just how many shots did he get off before he was shot? Hill 737 stood alone, and we didn’t have much of a chance. We found that the North Vietnamese had constructed an elaborate system of bunkers and trenches, and we were in for a fight for our lives. That was the day Guy was killed.
After eleven days, the enemy retreated to sanctuaries in Laos. Quickly we then assessed our gains, and a week later we abandoned the hill. It all took place with astonishing speed, and Ted’s father … person who saved my life … lay dying in a field hospital, died in a field hospital after he told me that he was going to be fine.

His surgeon was said to be one of Army’s best. Like Guy, he was drafted.
In next bed to his right was a boy who had shrapnel removed from his stomach and would recover, only to be shot again. Guy wasn’t so lucky. (Guy was lucky yet unlucky). Though he was wounded, as it turned out mortally wounded, and a snipper got him, he somehow managed to drag me to safety. To this day I don’t how he found strength when he was so seriously wounded, mortally wounded yet found strength to drag me to safety. He received a Purple Heart but he should’ve received more than that … for his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action” that went beyond call of duty. There were very few Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients to come out Nam and even fewer winners. If I sound bitter … and what Vietnam veteran hasn’t been from time to time … I think I have good reason to be, but I’ve tried to overcome it.

He wore a Paisley shirt, velvet trousers, and a high collard Regency Jacket, which seemed out of place to me. I still went to see my old high school play basketball and bumped into people I knew: old classmates, former teachers, and other friends. Of all people there that night I happened to sit next to a guy wearing a Paisley shirt, velvet trousers, and a high collard Regency Jacket and we once were friends. When this guy arrived with his wife well before the game started, I felt friendly and struck up a conversation with him. He had let his hair grow out, which hadn’t surprised me. He, however, hadn’t adopted a Hippie look and at first everything about our conversation was pleasant, and along with chatter we both had two big tubs of popcorn. Then, as we continued to eat and talk, it came out that I’d just come back from Vietnam. It seemed to take him a while to digest … that I just came back from Nam. I don’t know why, but it did. It was also worth noting that my battle wounds had healed, and scars weren’t noticeable. But when he came back to his seat after going to the restroom, which took more time than I thought it should, I noticed that his attitude toward me changed. He seemed sullen and unhappy. At which point I decided to concentrate on the game.

During the second half … after I went to the restroom and bought a coke … he turned to me and gave me a dirty look.

What’s wrong with this guy?” I asked myself. He would no longer talk to me. To hell with him! If he was going to be like that he could have his Paisley shirt, velvet trousers, and high collard Regency Jacket.

So this was the situation,” I told my wife later. “Here was a guy I knew in high school sitting there in his Paisley shirt, velvet trousers, and a high collard Regency Jacket, who was obviously pissed about something. What was I to do?” I ask.

Screw him.”

Okay. But then what? I had to know what was going on with him. Whether I ticked him off, or not. When all was said and done I wanted to get a good night’s sleep.”

And I’d want to sleep too.”

It then came out of the blue, and it was if he’d struck me in the head. And he spoke quietly so I could barely hear him over noise of crowd. Yet I didn’t have any trouble understanding him.

On the other side of him sat a woman who I understood was his wife. Mother of his children only spoke now and then. She wore a mini skirt, leather boots, and fake eyelashes. I wouldn’t have expected her to come to my defense.

When we began Operation Apache Snow we intended to clear People’s Army of Vietnam out of the A Shau Valley. Parents of boys who died there would never have heard of the place. I think Guy should’ve at least been nominated for Congressional Medal of Honor, but he wasn’t. Just thinking about it causes my eyes to tear.

Then the guy in the Paisley shirt, velvet trousers, and a high collard Regency Jacket had gall to tell me that I represented everything he hated. “You can serve your country, and they’ll hate you for it. You can fight a battle, several battles, take a hill, and lose a bunch of brothers, and they’ll still hate you for it. You can die out there, yet they still hate you. Whatever it is, they hate you for it. I still cry when I think about my brothers. Always, we watched out for each other. And we carried our load, before we could legally vote, and some of us still die every day. You treat us as if we’re a piece of junk. Well, if you can do the job, do it better and win a war, I say go do it. Carry your weight, do your job, and come home safe. I represent everything you hate! Right! You have a terrific wife!”

Then they got up and left me sitting there alone because I didn’t want to do battle with the crowd, and since I’d already done my share of fighting.

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- NAM

NAM

by Randy Ford

And war is personal
And it hurts

As a writer, a poet, and a patron of the arts, Margo had long been a crusader. Then came a time when nothing was more important to her than expressing her opposition to war in Southeast Asia.

She reinvented herself several times, while working through phases as they came along. This scared her husband, particularly after she decided to hold a colloquium at her coffeehouse on “Freedom and the Return to Paganism.” From her small stage, speakers led discussions about eroticism with emphases on body parts (for women belly, tits, and thighs and for men beards, balls, and muscles). Obviously each person had to make up their own mind, but the most prevalent ideas concerned freedom. When someone then asked what freedom meant, someone else yelled, “Make love, not war!” It wasn’t long before word got out and “Make love, not war!” became a rallying cry.

Margo’s coffeehouse attracted a certain crowd, and this crowd tended to be against war in Southeast Asia. And many people considered Margo a hippie, though she wasn’t one. She was more complex than most hippies but she liked the label and used it as a marketing tool. When Yippies came in vogue she adopted them too. This enabled her to meet the Chicago Eight before the rest of the world did.
If you were looking for reasons why Margo opposed war in Southeast Asia asking her wouldn’t have helped. During the early years of the war she didn’t pay didn’t pay much attention to it, and she was against it before she knew why. One source could’ve been her brother. She heard from him from time to time, and by then he lived in Bangkok, but it just didn’t click that he was connected with the war. It wasn’t until she opened her coffeehouse that she was exposed to the protest movement.

She sympathized with the Vietnamese, though she couldn’t say where these feelings came from. She was too busy to keep track of what was going on. Yet it was through her business that she came in contact with bands and musicians such as Country Joe and The Fish and Moby Grape. Or rather kids in bands that imitated Country Joe and The Fish and Moby Grape. And it was those kids, who stood up to the troops with bayonets and yelled, ”And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for?”

There wasn’t a specific incident that turned Margo against war in Southeast Asia (like the Tet Offensive of that year that showed that the American public was lied to). Nothing specific like what energized the five thousand women who rallied in Washington or caused Eartha Kitt to yell at Lady Bird Johnson. Margo never got overly concerned about the “credibility gap” or followed the Gallup poll that showed that 50% of Americans disapproved of Johnson’s handling of the war. Early on she identified with the “hawks.” Because of her husband, she almost had to. In those days there were “chickens” and “hawks,” and Margo’s husband couldn’t afford to be seen as a “chicken.”
Symbols such as chicken foot were most useful and usable. Chicken foot was important to many GI’s because it was their symbol for draft dodgers. It didn’t matter that it was also a symbol for the peace movement. It wasn’t a big deal because many grunts were ex-hippies … only they hadn’t escaped the draft. So many of them drew chicken feet on their helmets.

Margo grew fond of a chicken foot medallion, given to her by a GI, but while there were still questions in her mind she didn’t wear it. It was around the time Democrats chose Chicago for the site of their national convention. Then because of riot, violence, she began wearing the medallion around her neck. It reminded her of the GI who gave it to her and her brother, who ran away before the draft became a problem for him. Look! She didn’t know what her brother was doing in Southeast Asia. Didn’t know whether he was a chicken or a hawk.

The thing to remember is that Chicago got a bad rap. As Abbie Hoffman said “it was where flower children lost their innocence and grew horns.” In trying to explain what happened people said all kinds of things. For it is only when one collected posters, slogans, and medallions can one save something tangible. Regarding the overall scheme of things, it’s often all we have left.

It kind of went like this. “Cool” and “groovy” replaced substantive comments. Margo accepted this laziness. Dope was cool. Longhaired runaway kids were groovy. When saints were eliminated her eyes were opened by truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. Well, it was cool and groovy. So Margo demonstrated, marched, carried picket signs, and got herself arrested. And it was cool.  All of it was cool.

Forget the same ol’ bullshit. Get involved. Do as much as you can. Stick it up whose ass? Nixon’s ass! What happened to LBJ? Every night at the coffeehouse, Margo offered theater and magic and madness. She never promised a polished work, or a logical argument, but insisted on truth. War hurts, so without peace, she didn’t believe life was worth living.

Sing “Tommy Gun’s,” repetitive phrases, staccato fire and shatter glass. There was a suggestion of mayhem. Take the crowd trapped in front of the Conrad Hilton. Take clubbing and bleeding as spectators in the Haymarket Lounge watched and a feeling of uselessness hung over the scene. Here we were at war in American, as it was brought home from Nam. And as Janis Joplin breathed heavily into a mike, she warned us that “world ain’t pretty.” Of course the Mayor had to comment. “These are ugly times, but I’m doing everything possible … An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The act of touching became a statement and a cause. Touching promoted expression. Orgasms signified life. Throw in screwing. Lincoln Park became a freak show, with kids yelling “we are the future” as they pissed on the grass. With contempt they cried for freedom, while Margo insisted that the description of universal promiscuity didn’t fit her.  Pass out condoms.

To Margo’s parents, other people’s children seemed more adjusted than their own. Many of them were heroes, men and women serving in Southeast Asia. Now whenever these service men and women were honored, Margo’s parents wondered where they failed.  They considered their son a draft dodger.

Now the levitation of the Pentagon was really something. It released energy somehow, and God knew it needed to be released. It also sent a clear message to the brass working inside the building. So this extraordinary event, the levitation of the Pentagon, couldn’t be poo-pooed.  Clubbing and shouting “pig” couldn’t either. It meant that war was closer to home than any of them thought. Mostly white, protestors were called spoiled brats, yet they went to battle, or soon would. But for the grace of God they were fighting in Arlington and Chicago rather than Southeast Asia.

Many people remembered that Margo wore a chicken foot medallion. But for her sex, she would’ve been drafted and in spite of her feelings would’ve served her country. “Linebacker Two, this is your quarterback.” White and female and over thirty, she survived Chicago and had personal reasons for protesting war in Southeast Asia.

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- Revised NAM

Randy Ford Author- Revised NAM

And war is personal
And it hurts

As a writer, a poet, and a patron of the arts, Margo had long been a crusader. Then came a time when nothing was more important to her than expressing her opposition to the war.

She reinvented herself several times, while working through phases as they came along. This scared her husband, particularly after she decided to hold a colloquium at her coffeehouse on “Freedom and the Return to Paganism.” From her small stage, speakers led discussions about eroticism with emphases on body parts (for women belly, tits, and thighs and for men beards, balls, and muscles). Obviously each person had to make up their own mind, but the most prevalent ideas concerned freedom. When someone then asked what freedom meant, someone else yelled, “Make love, not war!” It wasn’t long before word got out and “Make love, not war!” became a rallying cry. .

Margo’s coffeehouse attracted a certain crowd, and this crowd tended to be against the war. And many people considered Margo a hippie, though she wasn’t one. She was more complex than most hippies but liked the label and used it as a marketing tool. When Yippies came in vogue she adopted them too. This enabled her to meet the Chicago Eight before the rest of the world did.
If you were looking for reasons why Margo opposed the Vietnam War asking her wouldn’t have helped. During the early years of the war she didn’t pay didn’t pay much attention to it, and she was against it before she knew why. One source could’ve been her brother. She heard from him from time to time, and by then he lived in Bangkok, but it just didn’t click that he was connected with the war. It wasn’t until she opened her coffeehouse that she was exposed to the protest movement.

She sympathized with the Vietnamese, though she couldn’t say where these feelings came from. She was too busy to keep track of what was going on. Yet it was through her business that she came in contact with bands and musicians such as Country Joe and The Fish and Moby Grape. Or rather kids in bands that imitated Country Joe and The Fish and Moby Grape. And it was those kids, who stood up to the troops with bayonets and yelled, ”And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for?”

There wasn’t a specific incident that turned Margo against the war (like the Tet Offensive of that year that showed that the American public was lied to). Nothing specific like what energized the five thousand women who rallied in Washington or caused Eartha Kitt to yell at Lady Bird Johnson. Margo never got overly concerned about the “credibility gap” or followed the Gallup poll that showed that 50% of Americans disapproved of Johnson’s handling of the war. Early on she identified with the “hawks.” Because of her husband, she almost had to. In those days there were “chickens” and “hawks,” and Margo’s husband couldn’t afford to be seen as a “chicken.”
Symbols such as the chicken foot were most useful and usable. The chicken foot was particular important to many GI’s because it was their symbol for draft dodgers. It didn’t matter that it was also a symbol for the peace movement. It wasn’t a big deal because many grunts were ex-hippies … only they hadn’t escaped the draft. So many of them drew chicken feet on their helmets.

Margo grew fond of a chicken foot medallion, given to her by a GI, but when there were still questions in her mind she didn’t wear it. It was around the time the Democrats chose Chicago for the site of its national convention. Then because of the riot, the violence, she began wearing the medallion around her neck. It reminded her of the GI who gave it to her and her brother, who ran away before the draft became a problem for him. Look! She didn’t know what her brother was doing in Southeast Asia. Didn’t know whether he was a chicken or a hawk.

The thing to remember is that Chicago got a bad rap. As Abbie Hoffman said “it was where flower children lost their innocence and grew horns.” In trying to explain what happened people said all kinds of things. For it is only when one collects posters, slogans, and medallions can one save something tangible. Regarding the overall scheme of things, it’s often all we have left.

It kind of went like this. “Cool” and “groovy” replaced substantive comments. Margo accepted this laziness. Dope was cool. Longhaired runaway kids were groovy. When saints were eliminated her eyes were opened by the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. Well, it was cool and groovy. So Margo demonstrated, marched, carried picket signs, and got herself arrested. And it was cool.

Forget the same ol’ bullshit. Get involved. Do as much as you can. Stick it up whose ass? Nixon’s ass! What happened to LBJ? Every night at the coffeehouse, Margo offered theater and magic and madness. She never promised a polished work, or a logical argument, but insisted on the truth. War hurts, so without peace, she didn’t believe life was worth living.

Sing “Tommy Gun’s,” the repetitive phrases, the staccato fire and shatter glass. There was a suggestion of mayhem. Take the crowd trapped in front of the Conrad Hilton. Take the clubbing and the bleeding as spectators in the Haymarket Lounge watched and a feeling of uselessness hung over the scene. Here we were at war in American, as it was brought home from Nam. And as Janis Joplin breathed heavily into a mike, she warned us that “world ain’t pretty.” Of course the Mayor had to comment. “These are ugly times but I’m doing everything possible … An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The act of touching became a statement and a cause. Touching promoted expression. Orgasms signified life. Throw in screwing. Lincoln Park became a freak show, with kids yelling “we are the future” as they pissed on the grass. With contempt they cried for freedom, while Margo insisted that the description of universal promiscuity didn’t fit her.

To Margo’s parents, other people’s children seemed more adjusted than their own. Many of them were heroes, men and women serving in Nam. Now whenever these service men and women were honored, Margo’s parents wondered where they failed.

Now the levitation of the Pentagon was really something. It released energy somehow, and God knew it needed to be released. It also sent a clear message to the brass working inside the building. So this extraordinary event, the levitation of the Pentagon, couldn’t be poo-pooed. The clubbing and the shouting of “pig” couldn’t either. It meant that the war was closer to home than any of them thought. Mostly white, the protestors were called spoiled brats, yet they went to battle, or soon would. But for the grace of God they were fighting in Arlington and Chicago rather than Nam.

Many people remembered that Margo wore a chicken foot medallion. But for her sex, she would’ve been drafted and in spite of her feelings would’ve served her country. “Linebacker Two, this is your quarterback.” White and female and over thirty, she survived Chicago and had personal reasons for protesting the war.

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- OUT OF THE LAND OF OZ Snapshot of history 2nd Installment

      His sister Margo, more than anything else, wanted to tell him how she felt about Nam, but he knew where she stood from the peace buttons she wore.   The whole time Jack wished he were back in Vientiane, where over a good meal, he could complain to his buddies about the dangers on the ground and in the air.   But then this was not the Jack his family knew.   It wasn’t the Jack of Richmond, the boy who ran away.   As his buddies knew, he complained about everything, just loved to complain.   He had that right, as long as he avoided strangers, particularly journalist or anyone who could blow his cover.

      Attached to the embassy, they were all there to develop and save Laos.   Inside the embassy or outside it, the goals were the same; but the risks were not the same.   They varied; and so was the length of time people stayed in the country.  Those who wore Rolex and Secko watches and gold heavy chains usually stayed longer than military personal.

       Meanwhile, Jack never apologized.   He accepted the fact that he lived in a world in which human life was cheap.   He still missed his wife.   He never saw his daughter.   He and his wife had been an unlikely couple, an American and a Philippine revolutionary.   Their love transcended ideology.   Margo couldn’t have understood this.

       His mother didn’t want to talk right them.   All that mattered to her was that both of her kids were finally home, and she didn’t want to say anything to spoil it.   Her husband had considered Richmond the perfect place to raise a family and never considered himself stuck.   If Jack hadn’t run off, he probably would’ve shared the same feelings.

       The Indiana Jack remembered was Indiana before the monotony of the interstate, when US 40 was two lanes, went through towns, and up and down hills.   He didn’t think the same as his father, nor had he his mechanical ability.   At least his father had a place where he belonged, and no one could deny him that.   People could tell where he was from by the way he talked.   Surprisingly, both were romantics, both had the Philippines in common and both had strong patriotic sentiments.   The spitting image of his father, hardly, but Jack wondered about what all they shared.   Or if his father hadn’t been given a chance, would he also have been wayward?   Jack felt regret and sorrow when he least expected it.   Did he love his old man, who once wielded a stick with the vengeance of a despot?

       So much feeling came, came as a shock, culminating with more tears…real tears.   For once, principles didn’t matter.   Tears seemed to erase the pain, as words came slowly.   Short phrases…about the body…questions about dad…consoling…remembering…paying tribute, with everyone talking at once.   “A friend’s soul has ascended into heaven.   Nothing we know stood in the way.”

       The purpose of the service was not only to console but also to instruct.   But to the siblings, the service sounded familiar and too much like a sermon.   They had heard it all before.   None of it consoled them.     They placed their father in the finest hardwood casket, decorated it with the Tree of Life, a forgiveness symbol.   It illustrated affection.   Nothing else would’ve satisfied their mother.

       Now the family followed a pattern of covering over their doubts and frustration.   They gave the appearance of harmony and greeted each other with hugs and kisses.   Friends brought food to the home, casseroles and pies, etc.   It also was important that they drop by and pay their respects.   Jack’s tendency was to run and hide, which for once was impossible.   As he listened to others talk about his father, Jack remembered the scripture that referred to heaven having many mansions.   If that were true, he thought, there surely was a gas station up there for his father to run, which brought a smile on Jack’s face.

      Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- NAM A Snapshot of history

       As a patron of the arts, Margo was also a champion of peace.   She embraced the 60’s.   How could she have lived up to the expectations of her parents?   They wouldn’t so much as drink a glass of wine with dinner, or dance or swear.   To have a deeper relationship with God, they followed a rigorous standard of piety.   They worried about Margo and prayed that she would get right with God.

     There were many reasons why Margo avoided certain topics with her parents.   Some of them were sad and others merely comical.   If she brought up evolution, she knew she would get a lecture; abortion, outrage.   They got their feelings hurt easily.   There was always the danger of butting heads.   Yet on occasion, the wayward daughter felt obligated to go home.

       Limited contact seemed better than no contact at all, but even contact as infrequently as once or twice a year sometimes seemed too often.   And even when they talked, their conversations were limited.   And as for quality time and understanding one other, forget it.   But they did love each other.   What would’ve happened if Margo had told her parents that she too lived by a formal doctrine, a system of ideas and ideals?   Would they have believed her?

      Margo turned her coffeehouse and gallery into a popular hangout for the Woodstock Nation.   She met the Chicago Eight before the rest of the world did and had no need to prove her case.   As a writer, a poet, and a patron of the arts, she had long been a crusader.   Nothing was more important to her than the expression of ones individuality and the moral declaration of do your own thing.   From her small stage, she led a colloquium on “Freedom and the Return to Paganism.” Through eroticism and the prevalence of female flesh (belly, tits, and thighs) and the symbols of manhood (beards, balls, and muscles), the goal was total freedom.

  Margo was against the war in Vietnam before she really knew why.   During the early years of the war, she hadn’t paid much attention to what was going on, but as anti-war sentiment spread, Margo found herself in the middle of it.   It was the music and the bands, such as Country Joe and The Fish and Moby Grape that really caught her attention.   And the kids, who dug Haight-Ashbury, preached love and wore flowers in their hair, that stood up to the troops with machine guns and tanks.   “And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for?”

  So that year the war spread to the campuses and the streets of America, the same year the Democrats chose Chicago for the site of its national convention. T  hen because of the riot, the violence, and being in the spotlight, Chicago got a bad rap.   And as Abbie Hoffman said “flower children lost their innocence and grew horns.”   Margo viewed it, however, not as a smudge on Chicago’s reputation, but as a spark.

       “Cool” and “groovy” replaced narration.   As a writer, Margo accepted this laziness.   Dope was cool.   Longhaired runaway kids were groovy.   When saints were eliminated her eyes were opened by the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth.   Well, that was cool and groovy.   So Margo demonstrated, marched, carried a picket sign, and submitted to an arrest.   And that was cool.

      Forget the same old rhetoric!   Dance, giggle, and zigzag, as much as you can!   Get involve!   Stick it up whose ass?   Nixon’s ass!   Huh, who? Every night at the coffeehouse, Margo offered theater and magic and the outrageous rather than the ordinary.   She didn’t promise a polished work, or a logical argument, but insisted on the truth.   Without color, life, and music, she didn’t believe she could reach people.

      Sing “Tommy Gun’s,” the repetitive phrases, the staccato rapid fire and the shattering glass.   There was a suggestion in the lyrics of mayhem.   Take for example the crowd trapped in front of the Conrad Hilton and the clubbing and the bleeding as the spectators in the Haymarket Lounge watched.   In spite of the anti war slogans and the singing, a feeling of uselessness lurked over the scene.   Here we were at war in American, as we brought Nam back home.   And as Janis Joplin breathed heavily into a mike, she warned that “world ain’t pretty.”

  Of course, the Mayor felt good and said, “These are ugly times but I’m doing everything possible to keep a lid on things.   An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

       The act of touching became a statement and a cause.   Touching promoted expression.   Orgasms signified life.   Throw in screwing.   In Lincoln Park, it became a freak show, with kids yelling “we are the future” and pissing on the grass.   Their contempt of the system manifested itself with cries for freedom.   But Margo insisted that descriptions of promiscuity never applied to her.

      To Margo’s parents, other people’s children seemed better adjusted than their own.   Many of them were heroes, men and women who served their country and returned.   Whenever these service men and women were honored, their proud parents clapped and choked back tears.

       ” Now the levitation of the Pentagon was really something.   It sent a clear message that more and more American people were against the war.   The protests taught us that the war was closer to home than we ever thought.   The clubbing by the police and the shouts of pig from the other side showed the dark side of the landscape.   Mostly white, the protestors were called spoiled brats, but they went to battle, or soon would. But for the grace of God, they were fighting in Chicago rather than Nam.

       Many people only saw Margo’s beads, bells, and colorful clothes.   But for her sex, she would’ve been drafted and, in spite of her feelings, would’ve served her country with distinction.   “Linebacker Two, this is your quarterback.”   White and female and over thirty, she survived Chicago and had her reasons for never leaving.

      Randy Ford

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