Dale McCleary, Personal Narrative and Commentary
Submitted via email, May 3, 2000
I was nowhere near KSU on May 4, 1970. In fact I wasn't aware of the killings or even of the prior disturbances until several days later. You see at that exact time I was in the jungles of Cambodia with the First Calvary Division, fighting for my life and the lives of those around me. I first learned of the shootings when I saw the Pulitzer prize winning photo published on the front page edition of the "Stars and Stripes" newspaper of May 6. Yes it took two days before the picture was even in print there. I don't know how long after that it reached us in the jungle.
It's so ironic that also on that same front page is a story about my unit of the First Cav finding a huge weapons cache in the Parrot's Beak region of Cambodia. Regardless, I clearly remember my shock when reading that newspaper account. Factual or not, the complete shock of what had happened in the United States was unimaginable. Here I was surrounded by guys being shot and dying; friend and foe, while back in the "World" students were being killed. The whole scenario was staggering, yet we had to fight on to survive. It didn't, and still doesn't make complete sense.
I was lucky that I came home safely in July, 1970. At that time the homecoming for any soldier was not pretty, nor was mine. It bothers me deeply that our whole generation seemed at odds, almost as though we were fighting each other. The guard vs. the students, the students vs. the soldiers (at least that's the way it was perceived by many soldiers), and of course the soldiers vs. the enemy. I've visited the May 4 activities at KSU several times and the memorial there. I've visited the "Wall" in Washington D.C. several times also. I've also returned to Vietnam twice.
To this day I still feel some animosity in directly involved parties whereever I go. I personally continue to seek the answers and my own healing from something that happened so long ago. I heard some current Kent State students, just today, remark at how there are so many older people on campus and that "they should just get over it." I wish it were so easy. As I attend the thirtieth aniversary of the Kent State shootings tomorrow I know I will be torn again as our generation has been for so long. When will we truly be healed? Perhaps only in death.