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Tuesday, May 30, 2023
HomeOpinionDon't question my patriotism!

Don’t question my patriotism!

Christine Piesyk, Local activistThis is in response to a personal letter I received from Jeff Mackens that indicated there will now  be opposing voices at peace rallies staged by the FreeThinkers for Peace and Civil Liberties. I want to thank our opposition first for peacefully co-existing with our rally and not disrupting our right to voice dissent. It might have escaped their notice, however, that we had the same message of supporting the troops, the same message that hundreds of people spoke about at the Walk In Their Shoes rally in Nashville Saturday (3/18), where empty boots were tagged with the names of the dead. The same message a majority of disenchanted Americans are also giving voice to.

Just in case you question any of our acts, or my motives personally, let me tell you something about me: I lost 17 friends in six years to Vietnam — many from the then 99th Bomb Wing in my northern hometown which deployed over and over again for ten years in a war that was as great a quagmire, with as little focus or resolution, as the current Iraq war. I was only 15 when my first friend was killed there — just six weeks after arriving in SE Asia. He was 18. By the end of that war, I had seventeen names to be etched later on the wall in Washington.

I would also tell you that far from standing on the sidelines and bitching about this war, I spent years cleaning up fallout from the last major military mess — Vietnam. I’ve worked actively on housing and health for Vietnam vets for years, first writing about issues that affect them and later in social services raising money for shelter services. I’ve trekked through the woods and feet of snow bringing winter blankets and food to tent cities under railroad bridges in the frigid New England winters.

I’ve stood on the front lines in the soup kitchens, making five gallon vats of pasta and sauce, or roasting turkeys, and making hundreds of “to go” sandwiches that fed hundreds of homeless vets. Many Vietnam vets have been plagued by the debilitating effects of substance abuse that originated in the horrors of that war, or irrevocably damaged by the relentless ravages of PTSD and other mental health and physical injuries originating in that other unwinnable war. Homelessness among vets is directly linked to mental health and substance issues. Do we really need another round of this?

Ask me sometime about the Vietnam vet — a homeless guy who was great street musician and guitar player — that a gang of punk kids tried to burn alive in his tent near RR tracks behind a McDonald’s — a vet who showed up at my office reeking of smoke in a burned winter jacket and the charred remains of possessions from his squat. He was afraid to file his own complaint of assault. A co-worker and I treated small burns on his face and arms. He slept on my office couch for days, afraid to go back to the streets. Our grassroots organization got him a new winter coat (it was below zero at the time), replaced many of the things he needed, talked extensively with him and helped him get through this act of bigoted inhuman terrorism perpetrated by American kids against an American vet.

I spent many hours a week using my organizations’ office as a day shelter in freezing weather up north so that vets could have a warm place to go, a cup of coffee, even a pot of soup for the 10 hours of the day when the night shelters were closed. What have you done on the front lines at home?

I’ve earned my right to protest the lunacy of this war and the lies upon which it is based. That is not a reflection on the troops, who are magnificent, but a dissenting voice on policy and policymakers, and an inept, mismanaged system incapable of cleaning up the mess they’ve created or caring for the troops they’ve sent in harm’s way. So don’t think I, or any of our diverse multi-cultural group, are anti-American or anti-troop. Maybe you should try being on the front lines of the aftermath of war. It’s a completely different view.



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