Excerpt from Chapter 1 Hard Time – page 11Published March 21, 2019
FINDING HEAVEN IN THE DARK
The Vietnam War was becoming more unpopular every day. It
had become an open and running sore in the American consciousness.
Its toxicity oozed into every facet of American life, and poisoned
our relations with each other and our government leaders.
It wasn’t that way when I joined the corps in 1966. The Vietnam
War was definitely on the radar screen, as antiwar protests and draft card
burnings were increasing. In addition, student deferments or
“escapes” to Canada were encouraged by antiwar activists. However,
by 1970, much of the pride that Americans held for their armed
forces was eroded by guilt-ridden, self-hating Americans. These citizens
took delight in accusing our military of hideous deeds and
atrocities. They gave no allowance for understandable over-reactions
by our troops to horrors committed routinely by the enemy. More
than ever, the war divided the nation.
Before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. publicly denounced the
war—and its disproportionate impact on black Americans—he and
many other courageous Americans (of all colors and religions)
demanded that the nation live up to its creed and guarantee all citizens
equal rights under the law. All Americans witnessed the horrors
of forced racial segregation; the images were thrust into our living
rooms. We watched peaceful civil-rights marchers sprayed with water
hoses and attacked by club-wielding police and their dogs. The
scenes shocked and disturbed us. Those who grew up outside the
Deep South were especially horrified to see the ugly racial hatred in
the eyes and faces of fellow Americans.
While he was respected and admired for his civil-rights positions,
Dr. King’s patriotism was questioned when he spoke out about the
war and the negative way it was changing America. Even his
strongest supporters in the government resented his outspokenness.
They did not want him “meddling” in international politics. They
condemned his denouncement of the war and questioned his
Dr. King hit a nerve, which the Black-Power movement leaders,
black separatists, and Afrocentric thinkers and agitators tapped. Why
was the poor and black underclass doing a disproportionate amount
of the “heavy lifting” in this war when they didn’t have full rights at
home? The outrage at this injustice changed the Marine Corps’
atmosphere during the time that I was gone. The espirit de corps still
existed, but a big, black-and-white elephant was in the room. It was
impossible not to notice it.