by Peter Freyne
The rain is perfect for it.
Bills to pay. Grocery shopping. You know the drill.
But I did want to share with you my little visit Saturday to the Vermont Vietnam Veterans Memorial along the interstate in Sharon. I was coming back from the Impeachment Town Meeting Congressman Peter Welch held in the Hartland High School Gym. Driving northbound along Interstate 89, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway.
The Sharon Interstate Memorial has been ugraded considerably over theyears and if you haven't stopped by you've been missing something.
That's Arthur M. Hammond Jr. of Bethel, a transportation worker,sweeping up on the right, and some local college students who stopped offon the left. Arthur also served in Vietnam with the Air Force, doingoxygen work on the big jets (1968-72).
I confess. I haven't stopped there in almost 25 years. That's when I covered the memorial's official opening for the late, great Vanguard Press. The Vietnam War is a tender subject. A friend lost, several wounded and a government that lied. Ours.
My last stop was October 30, 1982. No cell phones. No email. No laptops. The White House of that day, having learned nothing from Vietnam, was backing right-wing guerrillas and military juntas in Latin America. And Bernie Sanders was in his first term as mayor of Burlington.
The Vietnam War was my generation's war. I did not fight in it. I fought against it, as did many veterans, too, just like we're seeing today.
On the personal level, there was a draft. I went through the Selective Service System hearing process - summer of '69 - to obtain a "1-0," i.e. conscientious objector status (CO). Got it on a 3-1 vote of my distinguished local draft board. Still see the long Salem filter cigarette dangling out of the red lips of the smirking platinum blond who was the clerk of the board. She looked at me like I was a piece of total ____ and should be taken outside and executed!
A few days later, I was a little surprised to open the mail and see I had been given conscientious objector classification (no Roman Catholic had ever been granted one by my draft board before me). And I was a little disappointed, too, since it 'ended the battle,' so to speak, but my mother was tremendously relieved.
Also, there are several really cool buildings at the northbound Sharon Rest Area, an info center and a geothermal planetarium that will fascinate children of all ages. Great bathrooms, too.
According to Roy Black, the friendly "transportation ambassador" inside (pictured at right), the names of 128 Vermonters who were killed in Vietnam are on the granite marker outside.
Also on hand are big journals with the names of the 7230 Vermonters who served in the Vietnam War.
Look, nobody's saying we have to out-do Vietnam in Iraq and Iran, are they?