Donna Marie Ferrari, Commentary
Submitted via email, May 2, 2000
What I have found so strange this week is that it marks the 30th year of the Kent State killings and the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, but for me the fighting stopped but the war never ended. It shapes my daily life. I was a college student at SUNY -Oneonta during the Vietnam War. I graduated three weeks after the Kent State killings. As an anti-war protester May 1970 shocked me and left me forever changed. My campus erupted with the killings. Classes were canceled and protests were held. The killings united us to Kent State. Protests marked graduation. We marched to graduation with black arm bands as a show of solidarity. We mourned the loss of life at Kent State and vowed never again.
I grew up in a military family. My father was a career officer and to him it was his country right or wrong. For me to question the war was disloyal and so Vietnam was the line of demarcation between me and my family. I protested the war during high school and during college. I was not a leader just an average student who could not understand the killing and destruction.
May 27, 1967 my dearest friend, Jim Smith, was killed in Vietnam and his death made the war even more unbearable. He died two weeks short of his 21st birthday. Between tours of duty in Vietnam Jim came home and visited me at college. We had long talks about how conflicted I was -- not about the war -- but about my activities. Protesters were being called traitors. We were being told be we were prolonging the war -- that our efforts were killing our own soldiers. Jim and I talked about my concerns. He understood and was proud that I was willing to stand up for my principles. He encouraged me to follow my dreams. His death resulted in a number of changes to my life.
Three years later the Kent State killings just mobilized me even more. But it took five more years for the fighting to end and for our lives to return to normalcy. But it was normalcy at what cost. Soldiers came back to a hostile world and protesters like myself still question our participation and wonder what we learned from all of this.
We still have wars. Our leaders are still not truthful with us. I have been unable to read Robert McNamara's book because no matter how sincere he is I can not forgive him for continuing a war that destroyed the best of my generation. Lives were lost and lives were changed and we will never recapture the innocence of our former lives.
30 years later I can still taste the anger over Vietnam and of our protests to bring an end to a war. So this week I mark the end of the fighting and I long for the end of my own Vietnam War.