John D. Rezabek, Personal Narrative
Submitted via fax, May 31, 2000, in response to an article about the oral history project in the KSU Alumni Magazine
Recollections and Remembrances
The Basic recollections I have of my Kent State University Years, 1961-1964 are happy ones. However, I was a student living in Stopher Hall on the tragic day November 22, 1963, when president Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas, Texas. All classes were canceled that afternoon, and everyone were shocked and dismayed.
I graduated from Kent State with a B.S. Degree in 1964. My major was Government Service, with a minor in History.
In 1966 I enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Most of my tours of duty were spent onboard the U.S. Navy Hospital Ship Repose, which was stationed off the coast of Vietnam and I returned to Alameda, California on April 30, 1970. I could not go ashore until May 5, 1970.
Try to imagine my feelings when I opened the daily newspaper on May 5, 1970, only to discover the Kent State Tragedy. It felt like I was going home to one war, after I just returned from another war. Why were four killed and nine wounded? Why?
Other Kent State Graduates proudly served their country in Vietnam, including my classmate, U.S. Army Major General Larry Lehowicz. Are there any others who returned from duty in Vietnam on May 5, 1970? If so, I would like to communicate with them. I received an Honorable Discharge from the U.S. Navy in 1970.
Although I wasn't able to attend the 30th Anniversary Remembrance Ceremony, I share my feelings with you about the tragedy of May 4, 1970 as follows:
- The demonstrators were wrong in burning the ROTC building and trashing the campus.
- The Ohio National Guard was wrong in using "Live" ammunition to control the crowd.
- Two wrongs do not make a right. It's easier to rebuild a building than it is to bring someone back from the dead.
- It's OK to be antiwar (I.E., Anti-War Politician or Anti-War Policy). It's not all right to be Anti-Warrior (I.E. Anti-Active Duty Armed Forces Personnel).
- I believe that most of the Vietnam Veterans were draftees, and they didn't have a choice of being a warrior or not being a warrior. However, I enlisted.
- It just wasn't "cool" to be in the military in those days. Our uniforms made us easily identified targets for anti-war protesters. However, I still believe that it is the man or woman who wears the uniform who truly "Keeps the Peace".
- It was wrong for some Vietnam Veterans to throw away their hard earned military decorations, after they returned to the U.S. "I saved mine"
- I feel that both "Me Lai, Vietnam" and "Kent State University, Ohio" were both massacres.
- It is very right to remember the fallen, both Kent State University students and Vietnam Veterans. I lost my U.S. Navy Division Officer in Vietnam.
In conclusion, I'll try to attend a future commemoration at Kent State University. I want to be there for the candlelight service and see those fifty-eight thousand daffodils in bloom on the hillside.
Thank you so much President Carol A. Cartwright and the Kent State University Alumni Association, for the alumni magazines issue, which remembered the tragic events on May 4, 1970. The letter from President Cartwright and the quote from George Santayana were "right on".