[sixties-l] HOME TO WAR (book review)

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Wed May 16 2001 - 15:48:52 EDT

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    Mail From Hack, 2001-05-16


      Viet and Gulf Vets...a book worth reading....


    Crown Books, 690 pages, $35.00. Can be ordered from Random House
    1-800-793-2665, amazon.com, or barnesandnoble.com

          Home to War is the first book that attempts to chronicle and put
      in perspective the whole experience of Vietnam veterans returning from a
      war the nation in large part didn't want, and which the government itself
      tried to wash its hands of. There are really three main points to
      Nicosia's book: 1) that Vietnam veterans were put through an experience
      that most people outside the war, even their family and friends, could not
      fathom; 2) that upon their return, Vietnam veterans suffered worse than
      neglect, and were in fact attacked and berated for their service to their
      country and made to bear the brunt of the country's negative feelings about
      the war; and 3) that Vietnam veterans turned to one another, used the same
      resourcefulness that had kept them alive during the war, and created
      perhaps the most significant and successful self-help movement in the
      history of the United States.

         Nicosia begins with the story of Vietnam Veterans Against the War
      (VVAW), and shows how veterans revived the flagging and much-splintered
      civilian anti-war movement. He narrates in great detail VVAW actions such
      as Operation RAW; a march from Morristown, New Jersey, to Valley Forge,
      Pennsylvania; during which veterans performed guerrilla theater to show
      local people what an American military company might do in similar
      Vietnamese towns; the Winter Soldier Investigation, where hundreds of
      veterans came to Detroit in 1971 to testify to various atrocities and
      brutal acts they had committed against the Vietnamese people; and Dewey
      Canyon III, which brought thousands of veterans to Washington in April,
      1971, to tell Congress and the President that the war had to be ended
      before any more lives were wasted and to return their medals in front of
      the American people.

         Very quickly, the veterans against the war realized that other
      issues were going to keep their movement alive long past the war's
      conclusion. Vets found that the war had screwed up their heads, their
      ability to trust and relate normally to other people, and in some cases
      kept them from holding down a job and other necessary social
      functions. Jobs were scarce in postwar America anyway, their GI bill was
      miserably inadequate, and checks were delayed for months; over 700,000
      vets came home with "bad paper" that tagged them for life as losers. A
      large number of vets began to fall sick from "old age diseases" like
      prostate cancer that they shouldn't have gotten till decades later -- the
      product of dioxin poisoning from Agent Orange. The unexpected penalties of
      having served in Vietnam continue to this day with thousands of vets now
      manifesting symptoms of potentially fatal hepatitis C, which had lain
      dormant in their bodies for 30 or more years. Once again, the VA is doing
      little to warn veterans of this health risk to which many were exposed
      during the war.

         Nicosia's book follows the thread of a great many groups: the
      Vietnam Veterans' Working Group on Stress Disorders, the Vietnam Veterans
      in Congress, Agent Orange Victims International, the National Veterans'
      Legal Services Project, Bobby Muller's early Council of Vietnam Veterans
      and its later reincarnation, Vietnam Veterans of America to show how work to
      help Vietnam veterans has benefited many other groups of people (victims of
      natural disasters or of violent crimes, for example) who suffer from delayed
      stress as well as those, which is most people on this planet, whose bodies
      been poisoned by the toxic by-products of industry.

         At the end of Home to War, Nicosia discusses the issue of some
      200,000 Gulf War veterans who are apparently sick from one or more toxic
      exposures they suffered during their war, and he reveals that the disgrace
      of a nation turning its back on its own courageous warriors is once again
      being replayed and once again for the same reason: to save money at the
      expense of those who have already done their jobs and aren't needed any more.

         Home to War is a story that needed to be told. One can only hope
      that someone besides the veterans themselves is finally listening.

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