Thursday, February 17, 2005

More Boots Given in Little Rock

We also were given a pair of boots from a Vietnam veteran, who had kept them in a closet for decades, perhaps waiting for just this occasion. Here is what he said at the press conference in Little Rock:

More than four decades ago, I left Little Rock for Parris Island, South Carolina. I was off to join the Marines, expecting exciting adventures and hoping to be of service.

After boot camp I was stationed in various parts of the United States, then in Japan and finally, in 1966, I was sent to Vietnam. When I arrived there, I was issued a .45 caliber pistol, a camera and these boots. Then I went to work. Every step of the way, through sand and mud, on helicopters and aircraft and jeeps and trucks, through fear and fellowship, these boots helped get me through. Then in 1967 the boots carried me home – back to civilian life. Three million of us served there. 58,233 of us died. No one really knows how many were physically injured. Most of the rest of us are damaged in secret, unspoken ways.

As I became a husband and a father, the boots stayed in the floor of my closet, year after year, a sturdy, silent reminder of those days. Through all the joys and sadness of life, through career changes and thousands of miles of relocation, these boots somehow were always along in a box somewhere, always finding a place on some closet floor. Just like the memories, they were always with me.

After coming home I joined the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Vietnam Veterans Organizing Committee, the Governor's Task Force on Veterans and finally the Veterans for Peace. When I heard that this exhibit was coming to Little Rock, I knew there was one more job to do.

Yes, these old boots served me well when I needed them. So I have brought them here today, on behalf of the Veterans for Peace, in hopes they might take their place in this exhibit. Our intention is not that they will represent another sacrifice by another American family although they might well serve that purpose. Our heartfelt wish is that these boots be taken as a reminder from those of us who been to war, that the only real answers, the only true resolution, the only real future, is in peace. The coward runs away, the soldier stays to fight, but the most courageous among us is the peacemaker who stands before the mighty engines of war, armed and shielded only by the belief that killing is wrong.

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