On Monday night, a panel of three anti-war veterans addressed a packed Welles-Brown Room to bring insight to the social justice movement. Students for Social Justice sponsored the event, designed to bring real-world perspective to UR students.

“The experiences of veterans lend significant weight to their opinions,” SSJ member and sophomore Jess Bell-Masterson said. “It is essential that when they speak out, we listen.”

The panel was comprised of Vietnam War veteran and high school consultant Jim Murphy, Vietnam War veteran and poetry publisher Dayl Wise and Gulf War veteran Eric Massa, a congressional candidate.

Panel members began the evening by describing their experiences in war and their lives as activists afterward. Murphy, speaking first, talked of his work in countering military recruiters in New York high schools.

“We’re very quick to tell the kids that we have nothing against the guys in the field,” Murphy said. “I’m just trying to shut off the recruiters.”

Having devoted his life to providing a counter-voice to the military, Murphy has numerous stories to tell of mistakes and falsifications in recruiting. “Most recruiters, I know are probably trying to do the right thing,” Murphy said. “The problem is that recruiters today are under incredible pressure to make their goals. This is what we try to counteract in high schools.”

Next to speak was Wise, who presented his history. As a college dropout in the middle of the Vietnam War, he was drafted to the Army and became an infantryman.

After being wounded in combat, Wise returned to the United States and joined the anti-war movement of the time. However, when pressed to explain his injuries he told a fictitious story about a car accident.

“I was part of the anti-war movement, but not as a veteran,” Wise said. “I wish I had joined as a veteran, but I didn’t have that kind of courage.”

Finally, Massa offered his insights on the nature of war. “We were about 600 yards from the Beirut airport, where the Marine barracks were,” Massa said, referring to his time on the battleship New Jersey in Oct. of 1983. “And we watched the building implode because a terrorist drove a truck loaded with explosives into the lobby and detonated it.”

The terrorist attack killed 241 U.S. service members, including Massa’s roommate of four years at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

After describing their various experiences in war and with the anti-war community, the forum was opened to questions from the assembled audience. Most of the questions asked for clarification of certain points made during the initial presentation, but some audience members asked pertinent questions to the panel.

One individual from the audience asked the veterans whether they had any ideas for how to resolve the current situations in Iraq and elsewhere. Although they offered some perfunctory responses, the panel displayed a lack of consensus with regard to future solutions to current problems.

In the course of the evening, Murphy was asked if he knew of a time when war was both called-for and just.

“I don’t believe that we can justify any war that we’ve been in since I can remember – World War II, we had President Bush’s grandfather helping finance German industry. I think that we could have avoided war if there wasn’t money involved. MacArthur provoked Korea and Vietnam was obviously engineered,” Murphy said.

Murphy continued with words of wisdom for his audience. “We were ignorant of the culture in Vietnam,” Murphy said. “What would have happened if we weren’t ignorant? Ho Chi Minh’s constitution was a mirror of ours. He appreciated our Constitution.”Majarian can be reached at mmajarian@campustimes.org.



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