Vietnam: A Working Class War
Saturday, September 22, @ 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, at the CCAC Allegheny Campus and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The goal of this program is to provide an opportunity for the present generation of young people, students, elders, and members of the larger Pittsburgh community to learn from and dialogue with those whose lives and politics were profoundly impacted by the Vietnam War. The program will include three panels:
- Vietnam veterans
- Anti-war resisters
- Representatives from the Vietnamese community
Fifty years after those events and the bloody Tet Offensive, the conference aims to help heal old wounds, bringing together men and women who fought the war with others who actively opposed U.S. involvement in the conflict, and with members of the Vietnamese community who saw Vietnam forever changed by the war.
It will conclude with a procession to and ceremony at the Vietnam War Memorial on the North Shore honoring T.J. McGarvey and the Pittsburgh Building Trades who built the memorial with donated labor.
Panel 1 (9:00 – 10:15 am): Vietnam Veterans
Pat Conroy – Director of the Vietnam Veterans Monument Fund, he served two tours in Marine security around Danang and across Vietnam.
Jack Wagner – served in the Marine Corps from 1966-68. His squad of twelve men was ambushed on patrol in the DMZ separating North and South Vietnam, Jack serves as director of Pittsburgh Hires Veterans.
Chris Moore – served in the Army’s 46th Engineers transporting materials by truck along Vietnam’s famous highway 1. His longstanding Sunday evening KDKA radio programs are always open to veterans’ voices.
Nick Molnar – Air Force, crew chief on C130 1968-69 in Indochina. Past President, District 2 of the United Mine Workers. Pennsylvania Labor History Society Board
Panel 2 (10:30 – 11:45 am): Anti-War Activists
Rick Adams – Community activist and Director of CCAC’s Center for Excellence in Funded Programs
Mike Stout – Singer/songwriter anti-war activist for 50 years, co-founder of the Indochina Solidarity Committee in NYC in 1970.
Carl Davidson – was National Secretary of the Students for a Democratic Society (1966-68) during the height of the Vietnam War.
Sandy Kelson – Served in the US Army 1963 – 1966, he is a past president of Veterans for Peace and long-time member of the Thomas Merton Center.
Jessie Medvan – Member of the PA National Guard 2000-2008, she was deployed to Iraq in 2004-5. Jesse is the Lead Organizer of Veterans for Peace Chapter 47 of Western PA.
LUNCH (Included) (12:00 – 12:45 pm)
Acoustic music played by Danny Schlegel, Americal Division – 23rd infantry in Chu Lai, and Vietnam Veterans for Peace, and will sing songs of love and protest.
Panel 3 (1:00 – 2:15 pm): Impact on Vietnam
Diana Nelson Jones, Community reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Tony Accamando – US Army veteran, 1967; Co-Founder Friends of Danang, a Pittsburgh based organization.
Khoi Tran – Former president Vietnamese Association of Pittsburgh.
“The Importance of Teaching about the Vietnam War in our Schools:”
Bob Matthews, North Carolina Vietnam Veterans, Inc., Bridgeback Foundation.
Vietnam Veterans Monument, North Shore
(Shuttle service provided immediately following conference from CCAC to North Shore)
At 3:15 PM, following the Conference, a memorial service will be held to honor Marine, Ironworker, union and family man T.J. McGarvey, as well as the hundreds of Pittsburgh Building Trades union workers who built the monument entirely with volunteer labor.
Tickets cost $25 for the general public; $10 for veterans, active military personnel, underemployed, and students.All attendees will receive a continental breakfast and boxed lunch.
Co-sponsored by the Battle of Homestead Foundation, the Pennsylvania Labor History Society, and CCAC Allegheny Campus
I Ain’t Marching No More
by Bette McDevitt
These are some notes from conversations at the weekly breakfast meeting of the Battle of Homestead group, at Eat&Park, before the three part discussion of the Vietnam War, in the fall of 2018. The event was organized by Charlie McCollester, Jacqui Cavalier, Mike Stout, and others, at the Community College of Allegheny County, North Side location. It was a memorable event, in many respects, both for the presenters and the audience, and earned a place among the accomplishments of our group, the Battle of Homestead Foundation.
Mike Stout, local musician and activist, was clear about the “why” part. ”In 1968, I and millions of others became aware of what we were doing internationally, not just Vietnam but all over the world. This conference should do the same thing, wake people up to what the US is doing. Even people in this room don’t know that we’re involved in eight wars, and how many troops we still have in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and on and on.. What is going on today is 100 percent blanked out by the corporate media.”
Charlie McCollester, local historian and one of the founders of the Battle of Homestead group, sponsor of this program, has been planning this conference for a year. “Fifty years before 1968 was 1918, the beginning of World War I, and who then gave a thought to World War I? It was not even in the public consciousness. Why then does Vietnam matter? Because the deep political divisions that bedevil our American present time had their roots in the rice paddies, defoliated jungles and bomb craters of Vietnam and put hundreds of thousands of citizens in the streets to protest our nation’s actions. Why? First, the US lost the war, something that an almost religious belief in our nation’s manifest destiny held was not possible. Second, the Tonkin Gulf resolution of Congress, used to give political cover for the war, was based on a politically manufactured deception. This governmental deception was repeated in the “weapons of mass destruction” justification for the invasion of Iraq. Before John F. Kennedy’s assassination nearly 77% of the American people trusted our government; in 2017 that trust was 18%. Democracy cannot survive if people can no longer trust the people they elect to govern them.”
Jacqui Cavalier, associate professor of history at CCAC, who handled the logistics of the conference, said “I can stand in front of my class and talk about history, but there is nothing like having an army veteran, like Jesse Medved, describe what it was like to be in Iraq. From the perspective of an educator, there is a much greater impact from first hand experience” Ms. Medved, whom Mike calls a “silver tongued orator” didn’t hold back during the planning sessions, in describing the death, agony and destruction we brought upon Iraq.
Mike Stout, part of the panel as an anti-war activist, knows how to tell a story and he shared his own “baptism by fire” “A lot of us came alive in 1968, in the streets of New York. Our brains came alive, our spirits came alive. We realized that there was stuff going on that we didn’t know about. I was 19 years old, when I got off the subway at 7th Avenue and 42nd street, to go sightseeing, and found myself in the middle of a 20,000 plus anti war demonstration. I got swept up in it. There was Phil Oaks singing “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” and people selling bus tickets to go to the Democratic convention in Chicago . We marched over to the Armory at Park and 34th, about ten thousand of us surrounded the building. The police brought the horses in, turned them around and moved them into the crowd, kicking us out of the way.“ I got the shit kicked out of me by the police force. And that was my baptism by fire, It’s been anti-imperialism and anti- war work for me ever since.”