I am an active member of Vietnam Vets Against War, Annapolis grad, retired civil rights attorney, and author of an inspirational memoir, who changed my path as soon as I could once I realized how immoral and obnoxious the Vietnam War had become. As a navigator of a US warship, the USS Oak Hill (LSD-7), I navigated 300 marines to Vietnam where our ship stayed on station for six months supporting the war effort. Immediately after the Vietnam period I navigated our ship to Hong Kong and then Japan where I had spent two years attending an American high school in Yokohama when my father, a WWII hero, was a Commander in the Navy assigned to the Yokosuka Naval base. After visiting the city where I lived, Kamakura, I decided to take a train to Hiroshima where I felt my anti-war sentiments would find a place to ponder what my future might be once my commitment was over in about a year. That impetus I recorded in a memoir I wrote called All the Difference, that showed how I changed from a pawn in the military to a crusader for justice as a civil rights lawyer for the poor and powerless.Here is an excerpt of that experience that I want to share for the 70 th anniversary of the horrendous bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki:
I navigated the Oakhill to Hong Kong, where I wandered the streets for a day, amazed at the bustling beauty of an island with skyscrapers piercing the sky and shopping centers with tailors fitting customers with silk and other fine materials. I followed some officers from our ship to a team of tailors who fitted me with the best fabrics for suits, sport coats, ties, and dress shirts. Rugged mountains covered the background populated by millions of Chinese in a diverse British city. I had never seen so many sampans and makeshift vessels tied together along wharfs shaping a village of thousands of poor boat people.
A ferry boat took me past these water-bound wharf villages to Macau, then under communist rule. A taxi driver motored me to a Mao Tse Tung school. High school students shouted slogans, marched, and waved red flags. He told me if we drove near them they would kill me if they knew an American naval officer rode in his vehicle. Gambling casinos decked out with roulette wheels, card sharks, bartenders, dancing girls, lavish carpets and accommodations overwhelmed with a gambling crowd of rich professionals and tourists. Since time was short, I jumped on the ferry to Hong Kong to my hotel. The next day my clothes were ready to pick up and bring back to the ship.
Our next port, Yokosuka, Japan, was where I had lived as a teenager. The base PX provided me an opportunity to buy gifts for my friend Yoshio Suzuki’s family in Kamakura. His boy enjoyed the baseball glove and girl a doll I had purchased on the base along with a fifth of Jack Daniels for his Dad who still ran a milk factory there. While there, I visited Enoshima and was shocked by its change. Waves still crashed on the rocks and the sound of the surf mingled with the shore, but there were no crabs or fish in the tide pools. They were inundated with dirt from the excavation that created the bridges, roadway, and souvenir shops that dotted the way. Escalators snaked to a slick modern observation tower while shrill pop music wafted across the island from the multitude of restaurants and shops constructed in the recent past. Horn honking replaced the natural sounds that had refreshed me on my first visit. Exhaust fumes choked me when in the past only ocean spray and sunlight danced on the rocks and natural pathways of the revered island. Neither the magnificent hawks nor Mount Fuji were visible through the smog. A two lane road lead to an escalator that reached a modern observation room after we passed tourist shops and restaurants that blared music and commercials where once stood a sacred island sanctuary. Crowds shoved and filled the pathways. How dismal progress made this once peaceful ancient shrine.
A train swept me off to Hiroshima where I saw a film of the devastation caused by the first atomic bomb ever dropped on human beings at the shrine to the dead. Seeing the effects of that enormous blast on human beings haunted me. The photographs of the victims etched the atrocity against humanity graphically in my brain no matter what the justification. The statistics baffled my mind. By the end of the war, atomic bombs killed about 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki. Most of the casualties were civilians. Many died slowly from radiation sickness so these statistics understate the deaths. At the museum was a reference from an eye witness:
“Towards evening, a light, southerly wind blowing across the city
wafted to us an odor suggestive of burning sardines. I wondered
what could cause such a smell until somebody, noticing it too,
informed me that sanitation teams were cremating the remains of
people who had been killed. Looking out, I could discern numerous
fires scattered about the city. Previously I had assumed the fires
were caused by burning rubble. Towards Nigitsu was an especially
large fire where the dead were being burned by hundreds. Suddenly
to realize that these fires were funeral pyres made me shudder, and
I became a little nauseated. 8 Aug 1945 by Michihiko Hachiya.”
A memorial book at the shrine to the dead contains my statement that as a patriotic American who had grown to love the Japanese people, to see what horror we caused them with the dropping of atomic bombs made a lasting impression of extreme sorrow. I hoped no country would ever use atomic or nuclear weapons in the future. I walked to a carved stone in Hiroshima Peace Park called the Memorial Cenotaph and read the words: “Let all souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil.”
Hi Friends: I read a portion of my memoir about the Alaskan wilderness in a yellow panel truck with Joan, me, and our black Lab, Shiva.The occasion was IWOSC’s Reads Its Own on Sunday August 9, 2015 In the picture you can find me in the back row with a grey hat. Everyone brought their own unique, creative style. We all enjoyed the day.
Our first night we stopped at a beautiful lakeside campsite just across the Canadian border. After parking our camper at the top of a hill overlooking the expansive lake surrounded by pines, and conifers, we walked out with Shiva on a leash attached to her red collar as California Law required, gold name tag dangling, her black coat shimmering in the sunlight, and she whined and tugged.
“Take that leash off that dog!” the burly husband said with a smile, “You’re in British Columbia.” After unleashing Shiva she dashed down the hill and plunged in the lake with a glorious SPLASH. A flock of Canadian Geese scattered honking and cackling. Each black head and neck, white chinstrap, light tan breast, and brown back rose in the sunset transforming the spectacle from tranquil to cacophonous, yet picturesque. Shiva swam around, lunged out, and raced back to me panting with her pink tongue hanging out. “Good girl, Shiva,” I said, scratching her neck and petting her black shiny head. She looked up in gratitude and shook water all over me. Joan and our new camp friends laughed and then made a fire for a BBQ. A feeling of freedom, fresh air, and the smell of pine trees, filled us with vigor. A crackling fire, basted chicken breasts, and corn on the cob, put us in the mood for sky watching. The twinkling stars we barely saw in California cities burst forth in the Milky Way galaxy. The “Tea Pot” in Sagittarius and Scorpio’s tail sparkled. We soon were in sleeping bags with Shiva at our feet.
We drove through the pristine roads of British Columbia dotted with pines, oaks, and maples on our way to Prince Rupert. A Tlingit village that featured tall totem poles was celebrating a holiday and offered a canoe trip with a guide who told us their version of the creation story known as the Raven Cycle:
“Raven steals the stars, the moon, and the sun from Naas-sháki Shaan, the Old Man at the Head of the Nass River who kept them in three boxes. Raven transforms himself into a hemlock needle and drops into a water cup belonging to the Old Man's daughter. She becomes pregnant from this and gives birth to a baby boy. Raven cries until the Old Man hands him the Box of Stars, another with the moon, and a third with the sun. Raven opens the lid and the stars escape into outer space. He rolls the box with the moon in it out the door where it flees to the heavens. Raven waits until everyone is asleep, changes into his bird form, grasps the sun in his beak, opens the box, and the sun breaks free into the blue sky.”
“That’s a beautiful and interesting myth,” I said.
“It is not a myth. This is our truth. We teach our children what our ancestors shared with us. Never call the Raven Cycle a myth,” she reprimanded me angrily. Realizing I had put my foot in my mouth while seeking to learn about their culture, it occurred to me in awhile my clients in Alaska had their traditions and stories, which I would respect, and apologized to our Indian guide for using the word myth; but I had caused some damage. You can’t unring a bell.
Once we reached Prince Rupert, we boarded a ferry for the Inland Passage to Haines. We slept on deck chairs outside when the crew secured our yellow truck alongside other vehicles. After ninety miles we arrived at Ketchikan, known as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” home of all five species of salmon who inhabit the streams and waters of the Tongass for spawning, leaving their roe on the gravel. We took Shiva out for a walk along Ketchikan Creek, which flows through the town.
When she saw salmon leaping up the “fish ladder” they climb to spawn at the top, she barked and raced to the edge filled with an electric charge of energy. I feared she would jump in and directed her back on the path that followed the creek through the primeval forest. The gravel beds are the end of the salmon’s struggle and are so thick with numbers the shallow streams were black with fins and twisting fish. Shiva smelled the dying salmon that had spawned, hurtled over logs, and bolted through underbrush in a frenzy searching for wildlife. Sand hill cranes, trumpeter swans, black-tail deer, porcupines, and wolves roamed the area. Red cedar, yellow-cedar, mountain hemlock, spruce, and shore pine were everywhere. Nature had aroused Shiva and us with such energy, we chased our black bouncing streak laughing with joy. We rested under hemlock and spruce and gave our Lab food and water next to an alpine meadow covered with pink fireweed, blue lupine and yellow poppies. A Ferry whistle brought us back to reality.
After we got underway we saw killer whales and porpoises jumping and playing alongside the ferry. Bald eagles soared on thermals. Dall porpoises have black backs and white bellies resembling killer whales, but are much smaller, and generated a “rooster tail” spray visible for twenty feet. They were “bow riding”—a pressure wave like the blast of wind that follows a passing truck—they sidled up under the surface and rode inside the pressure wave.
At the next stop we left the ferry to see the capital of Alaska, Juneau. The mountains sloped down to the water where it rests along the shoreline. The Tlingit Indians used the adjacent Gastineau Channel as one of their favorite fishing grounds for thousands of years. The native culture, rich with artistic traditions, included carving, weaving, orating, singing, and dancing.
The Juneau visitor center presented a spectacular view of the Mendenhall Glacier, a massive mountain of ice with cracks and fissures that revealed tints of blue and gray. The sound of ice chunks tumbling into the water roared as the waves caused from violent forces shook floating icebergs sending ripples in the surface. The Mendenhall reached its point of maximum advance in the mid-1700s, while its terminus rested almost two and a half miles down the valley from its present position. The mighty glacier started retreating as its annual rate of melt began to exceed its yearly total accumulation. Its bulk now retreats at a rate of one hundred to one hundred and fifty feet a year. Global warming has accelerated the process so the glacier will disappear in several centuries.
(Excerpt from All the Difference, by Daniel C. Lavery)
Daniel C. Lavery's All the Difference, a tortuous path from a pawn in the military to a crusader for justice, will be featured and he will sign his book for buyers with other authors in Pasadena August 9, 2015: The author is pleased to announce he has been selected to appear at Vroman's famous bookstore in Pasadena for a book reading from IWOSC's (Independent Writers of Southern California) bi-annual event titled "IWOSC Reads Its Own"with other authors from 2-4 PM at Southern California's Oldest and Largest Independent Bookstore... Vroman's Bookstore-695 E. Colorado Blvd- Pasadena, CA 91101- Tel: 626 449 5320.
Dan's Memoir is available at Amazon.com and will be offering a discount on his memoir for a limited time on line. (Stand by for that announcement with details later). His book is available at Crown Books, 6100 Topanga Blvd. #1340, Woodland Hills, CA 91367, at the local authors section.
As a featured author on Amazon.com, the first six and half chapters of Dan's Memoir are available to thousands of readers to sample free of charge:paperback is available at http://www.amazon.com/Daniel-c-Lavery/dp/1482676532/. It is also available for the same free look inside on Dan's website at www.danielclavery.com and for Amazon's Kindle version at http://www.amazon.com/dp/BOOBNXHV9Q. Thirteen five star reviews are posted on Dan's website that features poems,short stories,commentary from a wide audience on pertinent issues, excerpts from his memoir, and media. Where appropriate his offerings include a wide variety of photos.
(Dan a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland)
From a pawn in the military to law school and becoming a legal aid attorney started my recreated journey. Soon I became a staff attorney for Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers Union (AFL-CIO).
(Cesar Chavez with his dogs, Boycott and Huelga)
Later the ACLU of Southern California selected me as Director of the ACLU Farm Worker Project in Los Angeles. I submerged myself into the cutting edge of civil rights and consumer litigation with all my energy.
Dan, Joan, and Aleksey at the Gallo March during the Boycott
(Top) Dan Hired by The ACLU as Director of the Farm Worker Project.
Meanwhile, Joan and I raised a family that fulfilled my vision coupled with my quickly learned advocacy skills that enabled me to continue a profession on a path others said would be impossible—it was one few traveled—but I met enough dedicated individuals whose life shined that I knew it was right for me.
(Dan, Shiva, and Joan)
I completed litigation for the UFW when we resolved pending cases and The Agricultural Labor Relations Act created a board that resolved farm worker labor disputes and decided to launch my own civil rights practice. At the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission I researched cases where the charging party needed counsel and selected those that appeared meritorious. Meanwhile, The San Fernando Valley Law School selected me as their Constitutional Law professor. At the Federal Court of Appeals, I represented indigent appellants from criminal convictions. Many EEOC cases settled, kept employees from losing jobs, or from other types of discrimination, and compensated the client and me.
(Dan at his Encino Civil Rights Office)
A union client came to my office complaining that he had been defamed and terminated from General Telephone Company. A judge dismissed his case in an order that held an employer had a qualified privilege to slander an employee for internal communications. My appeal was successful in Kelly v. General Telephone, (1982) 136 Cal. App. 3d 278, 186 Cal. Rptr. 184, and established a precedent on pleading a slander case, qualified privilege, and negligent infliction of an employee’s emotional distress that also allowed punitive damages. A large jury verdict the next year established justice for my client, trial expertise, and unforeseen success.
(Dan reading from his memoir at Crown Books in Woodland Hills)
Recovering from each fiasco in my life and having learned a lesson each time, I defined a vision of what might occupy the rest of my life: a pursuit of social justice in whatever way I could find appropriate. The pieces fell together through hard work, determination, and a future with a woman who inspired me and calmed my wildness from swirling rapids to a deep river that refreshed and enabled me to continue against all odds. Once I found a path that consumed me with passion I aimed as high as I could. No matter what confronts the reader, my story demonstrates an ordinary person can survive major conflicts, disappointments, injuries, risk of death, and still flourish. And if one's life contains advice to others struggling to find themselves after many mistakes, studying creative writing under poets, authors, and professors and publishing a memoir offers an opportunity to share that vision with gratitude.
During bad weather, or when the Washington Senator's game was broadcast on the radio, I often played an indoor baseball game in our basement. My toy soldiers, cowboys, Indians became baseball players on a baseball field I created with wooden blocks as walls. My soldiers stood in positions around the “field.” Using a small nut and screw for a ball, I took a soldier in my right hand and threw the “ball” up with my left hand while lying on the floor at the home plate. The soldier’s body became a bat I swung with my right hand. A soldier’s head hit the ball the longest. The defensive players made outs when the “ball” touched them.
(Griffith Park Stadium Washington. D.C. 1951)
My games usually featured the Washington Senators against the Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, or Tigers. When a hit “ball” went over the fence it was a home run. Off the fence counted as a double unless it hit center field fence; that was a triple. Balls that went through the infield without touching a player were singles as were those that flew over the infielders and dropped in front of, or went by, the outfielders. If the ball traveled on the ground to the fence, it was a double unless the runner had great speed. It was a triple if I thought he could make it based on their speed on a baseball card.
(Washington Senator Baseball Cards)
Often when playing my “soldier baseball” game I turned on the radio to hear Senators’ announcer in 1950, Arch McDonald describe the action. He had a deep and kind voice that boomed with excitement and knew all the players, their stats, and baseball history. Using a sound like a ball hitting a bat when the player hit a pitch, followed by ringing a bell, he indicated hits. One bell meant a single, two a double, three a triple, and four a home run. I waited in suspense for the bells: “Here comes the pitch to Irv Noren. CRRACK ...ding...ding...ding...ding. There it goes over the right field wall and into the night for a home run, Noren’s 14th of the year, winning the game 4 to 3 in a walk-off finish.” It was fun using my soldiers as the players in the Senator’s game as if I were there watching the action.
(Irv Noren was my favorite player)
I devised a game called “step ball” that taught me how to field any ball and throw it accurately. Variations of the game exist because each house called for different rules. Our house lay ten feet above the street on a raised lawn with concrete stairway from the front door to the street. One day I threw a tennis ball against one of the ten concrete steps. It bounced back to me just like a ground ball. Using chalk lines on the street to designate a single, double, and triple, made the game more realistic. If the ball traveled over my head to the other side of the street, it was a home run. If I threw the ball to strike the corner of a step, it sent the ball the furthest.
Neighborhood friends of all ages challenged me in “step ball.” We often played two against two. Catching a ball in the air made an out, as did fielding a ground ball unless it landed beyond the chalk marks for a hit. We used baseball gloves to increase our chance to make a spectacular catch. Step ball improved my fielding and pitching ability and provided many intense games that were fun and never cost a penny.