Thoughts from Vietnam to Hiroshima

Realizing I had spent so many hours in my life in athletics, watching sports on TV, memorizing batting averages, and other statistics for many sports, I began daily reading for two or more hours one of thirty books from Berkeley for the six month voyage to feed my mind. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer, and The Arrogance of Power by Senator William Fulbright were my first three and helped me bring a better focus to my own emerging views.                                                      Finally, another ship relieved the Oakhill of Vietnam duty after six months, and I navigated our ship to Subic Bay, Philippines where we spent a week. The sailors loved this port because just outside the base in Olongapo numerous clubs existed where cheap alcohol and attractive Filipinas abound. Filipino bands played raucous pop and rock music copying the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Elvis, and others and cold San Miguel beer flowed. Dancing girls in Bikinis, and neon lights replaced the tension of Vietnam. From Subic our next voyage was to Taipei, Taiwan where I read about an aboriginal village about twenty minutes away. I walked to the town of Wulai, enjoyed the meandering river, mountains, and waterfall. A spa with three pools, and an Atayal village lay beyond. Native women dancing in red, black, and orange dresses to haunting rhythms from drummers invited me and other tourists to participate.                                                     Totem poles and sacred ornaments of the Atayal decorated Wulai's Old Street. Quaint restaurants served aboriginal specialties--sticky rice in bamboo tubes, stone-grilled meat flavored with rice wine, betel nut flower soup, and machi--an aboriginal desert made from millet flour filled with red-bean, peanut, or sesame pastes. Wulai was an escape to an ancient world that inspired, relaxed, and awakened me to a different culture. Somehow I couldn’t prevent noticing they were distantly related to the Vietnamese we were decimating daily. 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 three suits, two sports coats, many ties, sports shirts, socks, and two pair of matching shoes. 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, bar tenders, dancing girls, lavish carpets and accommodations dazzled 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.  Hoping 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.” Thoughts from Vietnam to Hiroshima

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Anti-War Poems

1)Battle Lines   by Carole Satyamurti   They wear the same boots, the same touching hair-cuts, they're smiles on the News, digits on print-out, our brave boys; names, ranks and numbers, action men splitting the night with mind-trash noise.   Below them, the lights are the Fourth of July, the screen shows cursors falling, converging on other brave men - abstract enemies with blanks for faces. The mission's to smash them and smash them again.   Each leader works at poses, inflections: strong on screen, bluff on the air-waves, caring friend. Each of them bathes in his own propaganda; his currency's lives, and he's plenty to spend.   It's no use praying for some clean ending, the God of the cross, of the star, of the crescent is deaf and blind. The fall-back, an echo of voices from childhood: Don't cry big boys. Never mind.     2)Poppies   by Jane Weir   Three days before Armistice Sunday and poppies had already been placed on individual war graves. Before you left, I pinned one onto your lapel, crimped petals, spasms of paper red, disrupting a blockade of yellow bias binding around your blazer.   Sellotape bandaged around my hand, I rounded up as many white cat hairs as I could, smoothed down your shirt's upturned collar, steeled the softening of my face. I wanted to graze my nose across the tip of your nose, play at being Eskimos like we did when you were little. I resisted the impulse to run my fingers through the gelled blackthorns of your hair. All my words flattened, rolled, turned into felt,   slowly melting. I was brave, as I walked with you, to the front door, threw it open, the world overflowing like a treasure chest. A split second and you were away, intoxicated. After you'd gone I went into your bedroom, released a song bird from its cage. Later a single dove flew from the pear tree, and this is where it has led me, skirting the church yard walls, my stomach busy making tucks, darts, pleats, hat-less, without a winter coat or reinforcements of scarf, gloves.   On reaching the top of the hill I traced the inscriptions on the war memorial, leaned against it like a wishbone. The dove pulled freely against the sky, an ornamental stitch. I listened, hoping to hear your playground voice catching on the wind.     3)After the Stealth Bomber   by Robert Minhinnick (Umm Ghada at the Amiriya Bunker)   It is years later now but time can also run backwards. Still she squats in candlelight, Umm Ghada in the caravan, or in 125 degrees Fahrenheit, a cockroach ticking on her divan.   At night they come out of the bunker, the children, the old people, but all a fog of flesh. one body with four hundred souls is exposed in a photographic flash. They pick the wedding rings and wisdom teeth from crematorium ash.   Who was it dreamed a stealth bomber? Stealth steals. Think of a smart bomb. Not so smart. Where the missiles entered Amiriya daylight was star-shaped in the sarcophagus, the concrete blasted back, all the bodies foaming like phosphorus in a bunker in Iraq.   The old women took off their shoes to welcome the fire that jumped into their mouths. How quickly the children found themselves unborn.   Yes, stealth steals. But still Umm Ghada guards. Umm Ghada who goads God with her grief and the ghosts she carries, Umm Ghada my guide in the charnel house corridors.   What is she but a woman in desert black. Yet no desert was ever so black as the sackcloth that Umm Ghada owns. Not the Syrian desert's Bedouin black, its cairns of cold stones.   • The Amiriya bunker in Baghdad was destroyed by the USAF on 13 February 1991. More than 400 civilians were killed. Umm Ghada, lost many members of her family in the destruction, became a guide at Amiriya, living on the site. I met her there in September 1998. Her whereabouts today are unknown. 4)Big Ask   by Carol Ann Duffy (In memory of Adrian Mitchell)   What was it Sisyphus pushed up the hill? I wouldn't call it a rock. Will you solemnly swear on the Bible? I couldn't swear on a book. With which piece did you capture the castle? I shouldn't hazard a rook.   When did the President give you the date? Nothing to do with Barack! Were 1200 targets marked on a chart? Nothing was circled in black. On what was the prisoner stripped and stretched? Nothing resembling a rack.   Guantanamo Bay - how many detained? How many grains in a sack? Extraordinary Rendition - give me some names. How many cards in a pack? Sexing the Dossier - name of the game? Poker. Gin Rummy. Blackjack.   What's your understanding of 'shock' and 'awe'? I didn't plan the attack. Once inside the Mosque, describe what you saw. I couldn't see through the smoke. Your estimate of the cost of the War? I had no brief to keep track.   Where was Saddam when they found him at last? Maybe holed under a shack. What happened to him once they'd kicked his ass? Maybe he swung from the neck. The WMD ... you found the stash? Well, maybe not in Iraq.   FALLOUJA   Discotheque, Numb, Beautiful Day, Just Breathe, Vertigo   Bono, Pearl Jam, U2 take me where I want to go   Prisoner abuse, death, bombs and chemical warfare   Fallouja you have caught America in your lair   Belching fire, missiles, grenades, and destroying homes   Children running, crying, hiding in Islamic domes   Iraqis swimming with arms raised and white flag waving   American Monarch their oil and riches is craving   Easy targets for military insanity   Named insurgents so we ignore their humanity   Spread human misery where mercy cannot be found   When emboldened patriotic minds are tightly bound   "Love and peace or else," the words ring out so very true   Fundamental intolerance, the red, white and blue   Conservative greed, arrogance, unbridled power   An ugly cancer increasing with every hour   Love is so much more powerful than this wicked hate   But bullying the Iraquis opens wide the gate   To a worldwide revulsion from each and every one   Who longs for peace with all people under Earth's bright Sun   American military policy is wrong   Like in Vietnam you still sing a repulsive song   When with these Third World people it could possibly be   Helping them build  their nation's foundation peacefully   The friendships, understanding, and love the world now needs   Rather than spreading war's pain, suffering, and death seeds       Daniel C. Lavery      

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Duke Dean and Snowball Fight

My first semester at Duke was turbulent: poor grades, demands of college football, and letters from my father that questioned my lack of maturity for dropping NROTC. The Freshman Dean of Students, an ordained Methodist Minister, promised during freshmen orientation to help any student in his southern accent: “Duke is one of the finest educational institutions in the world with a faculty second to none. You are young and inexperienced. Look to your left and right; one of you will not graduate. I will meet with any student having difficulty.” After calling for an appointment, revealing my trouble balancing academics with athletics, I appeared at his office in October. He had my folder containing my SAT scores and transcripts from my three high schools. “It is clear from your background you would have difficulty at Duke. People with your IQ seldom achieve academic success. You barely met our strict standards for entrance,” he said with wrinkled brow looking down at me from his penetrating stare. Tightness punched my stomach and disbelief rattled my mind. Could the Dean, who seemed so cordial, ever say such words? He was not interested in my problem and was rigid. I had not come to him for a repudiation of my intellect. No one had ever questioned my academic proficiency, nor suggested I lacked ability to achieve excellence. Others achieved higher SAT scores, but many of them attended courses to learn how to score high on those tests. My approach to them was nonchalant having achieved an A in 95% of my classes in excellent schools. Bewildered before someone who should motivate students, “What do you suggest?” I asked. “Make rigorous use of your time. Number the waking hours of each day. Fill your schedule with time to, and from class. Study evenly distributing time. If you must continue football, it’ll eat into preparation time. Consider alternatives to academic pursuits and the military. You might make a very good Marine.” His last comment outraged me. My fate did not depend on his advice. My intuition recoiled at the man. However, organizing time made sense. How could an educator say I was a poor candidate for academic success with a record that showed academic superiority except at Duke? I’d take each course more seriously. Soon the weather changed and snow covered the Campus. Snowball fights at Duke could turn dangerous. The snow fell on the campus in January leaving an opportunity to engage in snow ball fights. Some fraternity brothers from KA were harassing freshmen and assaulting them with snow balls. A huge football player, and future All-American, caught my attention as I’d thrown passes to him with the varsity. At 6' 9", two hundred and forty pounds he was also a vicious defensive end. At the fourth floor freshman dorm bathroom with a good view of the quad beneath, I decided to alter the unfair confrontation. From snow that had collected on window sills, I scooped enough to fill half a trashcan and made a pile of baseball-sized snowballs. As the beast attacked a small freshman, and tossed snow down his back, the boy’s books fell in wet mud and snow. My first throw hit the side of the monster’s face and had to sting. “I’m coming to get you, you son-of-a-bitch,” he screamed enraged at my assault. He terrified me. Immediately, with just one throw, I had become the target of a dangerous muscular giant. But, he had to run up four floors to find me. He raced to the second floor raging like a wild bull. In seconds, he would appear on my floor. Streaking to my room, farthest from the stairway, luckily on the left, I hid under my bed listening to the damage he did room by room. He threatened mayhem and falsely accused many. I felt pity for those innocent ones caught in his tirade. He swung open my door, but did not notice me huddled under my bed with a blanket over me. He slammed the door on his rampage. Every dorm freshmen feared his retaliation. While exposing my classmates to a fierce attack, I had made another narrow escape by using my intelligence, natural athletic ability, courage, and sense of justice that diverted a bully from further harming a helpless freshman. Later I learned those IQ tests prevented racial minorities and many women from qualifying for higher education because they were not accurate in predicting proficiency in higher learning and failed to assess multiple intelligences.

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Duke Freshman Enlightenment

The University of North Carolina football weekend bonfire soon arrived. The varsity players informed us we freshmen must make a huge blaze on Friday night before the game. The Football Captain told us, "Guard the bonfire from 8:00 PM until midnight because North Carolina freshman football players and students from Chapel Hill will to try to put it out. You must guard it at all costs." One freshman lineman said, “Let’s make clubs out of the firewood to protect the fire.” Players looked for wood shaped like a club. In minutes we stood in a circle around the bonfire holding clubs.  A large gathering of freshmen surrounded us to support Duke Football and build spirit for the event. We started chanting, brandishing our weapons, and walking in a circle around the bonfire in a brutish manner. From a nearby tree came a loud voice: “I’m a Duke graduate student studying for the ministry. Look around at yourselves. You came here for the best education available. Now you look like Neanderthals. What would your parents think if they saw you carrying clubs and shouting threats? You should be ashamed of yourselves. What would Jesus think of you? Put down the clubs, NOW!” What an incredible shock his interruption of our obsequious behavior caused.  It was like a bolt of lightning from a noble voice of knowledge had sliced into our consciousness. We looked at each other, recognized we looked servile and ridiculous. We all dropped our clubs. Having exposed our dark side we began singing fight songs, holding hands, and encircling the fire. This astounding moment made me glad I had chosen the pre-ministerial program and dropped NROTC. After I returned from a two weeks absence with arm in sling from a separated-shoulder injury running a punt back forty yards against North Carolina, Coach Cox sent me in against South Carolina. My opportunity to use Bux’s pass play was now. I completed a down and out pass for fifteen yards to our left end, Jim Preston. My rugged blond right end from Indiana caught one to the right sideline. Our right halfback, Bobby Wyatt, blocked the defensive end and instead of falling down, raced up the middle while both ends ran to opposite side lines yelling for the ball. My fifty-yard pass dropped into his hands over his shoulder with a defender nearby as he dashed into the end zone. With a grin he said, “Thanks for my first touchdown.” Infused with new energy I ran back to the bench. Our grey-haired coach grabbed me by the shoulder pads, “Mighty fine play, Lavery,” he said,in his strong southern accent.  My smile wiped away some of the darkness inside. For English Comp, Professor Crane, an Oxford grad, proved most challenging. World War II permanently scarred the left half of his face with a red burn wound. He started us on Earnest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms the first week followed by a five hundred word essay on topics we selected from his list. He knew much of the literature by heart, passionately taught us how to understand the author’s purpose, and writing style, to help us write thoughtful compositions. As an American ambulance driver for the Italian army, the protagonist witnessed casualties and became disgusted by war’s brutality. Professor Crane made Hemingway’s nihilism, repugnance to fascism, doomed romantic relationships, futility of war, the lost generation, and false patriotism, fascinating. While the novels provided a fertile area to explore in compositions, my professor criticized me for inserting Christian values gratuitously that lowered my grade. He penalized students a grade for each misspelled word or grammatical error and was a word-master who encouraged us to expand our vocabulary and improve our discourse. “Heightened words allow you to persuade, teach, describe, and create compelling essays,” he counseled. My thesaurus, dictionary, and a writer’s reference book helped me put an end to my incongruous preaching. The Library Tower criticism and defense of my composition were cerebral. Professor Crane marked misspellings, awkward sentences, wrong words and phrases. He suggested creative language instead of the ineffective. The professor’s location for this confrontation of words, ideas, and themes, stood on the top floor of the highest building on campus. Climbing those hundreds of tile steps circling the stone fortress made me feel I had entered a mystical world of enlightenment where a wizard sat on a throne offering truth. He forced me to stretch my thoughts beyond the confines of youthful experience. The remarkable challenge started in my first frightful episode. I appeared at the door after mounting hundreds of steps with composition and books in hand prepared to defend my paper, planning to show him I understood what the professor wanted,and the author meant.  My fist gently knocked on his door. “Mr. Lavery, please enter.” Taking a seat across from him, I glanced at the hideous red scar on his face as he handed me my paper.  Critical marks covered my theme with corrections, crossed-out words, and suggested phrases that he felt improved my feeble attempt. A mark of fifty-seven appeared in the corner.  Devastated because I loved English, he had showed why my writing was deficient. Feeling fear and extreme anguish, I was unsure how to defend my offering. Having spent most of my time in high school occupied with sports, I studied just enough to make A’s. Now my ability to succeed was in question. His criticism of my writing was not mean-spirited, but an exercise in how to enhance a composition with the art of creative writing. I vowed to improve, or I would fail one of my favorite courses. How could I impress my professor, so far my intellectual superior? Having thought I was a better writer than most contemporaries, I had to adjust to this professor’s approach that required me to quickly grasp literary concepts he had mastered. He gently criticized my superfluous moralizing. He was an empathetic scholar. Why had I spent so much time conditioning my muscles weight training, running sprints, and watching endless sports? I lagged those who went to prep schools, or were not compulsive athletes.   In Religion I expected to achieve a high grade but my faith was barraged by the course. My Professor knew sixteen languages and used them to demonstrate different interpretations of the Old Testament. He shocked me when he announced we knew only a few of the writers who contributed to the Bible. Much of the writing came from ancient oral tradition. Fundamental Christianity had taught me to believe in the literal truth of the miracles in the Bible because preachers told me, “God wrote each word through the author’s inspiration from the Holy Spirit.” My professor had a scientific explanation for many miracles. Some of my beliefs evaporated into uncertainties. My indoctrinators had taken a literal view of the Bible without having studied its history. That great Book seemed far more complex.       The parting of the Red Sea occurred annually when low tide exposed the red reeds anyone could walk on. Rather than God miraculously parting the sea, as shown in “The Ten Commandments,” the uniqueness of a low tide at the particular time it occurred, constituted the miracle that saved the wandering Jewish army. God, referred to as Yahweh in the Old Testament, appeared more like a jealous dictator with a passion for violent death to anyone who broke His rules, especially regarding idol worship. The penalty for adultery and many other “sins,” included stoning to death. Moreover, in Judges 19 we learn that a father offered his virgin daughter and a friend’s daughter to a mob of drunks who gang rape  them, as long as they did not harm his male friend. The next day his friend finds his daughter crawled home and died. This brutal mob rape and murder violated no law and is not criticized as immoral! Removed from a church Bible study, these brutal images seemed repulsive. Secure in my evangelical belief the New Testament replaced the Old Testament before the class; could there be two different Gods, one compassionate and the other brutal? My professor took an unprejudiced approach to Religion teaching it more like an archeology, history, or science course. He taught us to let facts and reason lead to our understanding. The challenges he gave us made my previous  beliefs tumble brick-by-brick.

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Plebe Brutality and Civil Rights Confrontation

A second classman in our company, who had a reputation for brutality, descended on plebes like a grizzly bear on a sheep. As I ran back towards my room from baseball practice, he grabbed me by my shirt and shouted, “Into my room, Scum.” Three plebes with their heads up against metal lockers standing at attention, chins rigged in and looking straight ahead with fear in their eyes and facial expressions appeared. Nazi storm trooper songs played loudly on his stereo.“Watch closely dummies as my plebes use their heads as cannons. In battery…. heave,”he shouted. When he shouted “In battery…,” each plebe stuck his neck out as far as he could. When he yelled, “Heave,” they simultaneously slammed their heads back into the metal locker causing a loud BANG. “Get in there scumbag against the next locker, and you better make the loudest sound," he yelled in my face. "You’re a bunch of pussies. I’ll show you how everyone will hear your cannons blasting simultaneously.” He moved up to the plebe farthest away from me and placed the palm of his right hand on the plebe’s chin and screamed, “In battery” and paused allowing the plebe’s neck to extend,“Heave!”shoving his hand against the plebe’s chin slamming the victim's head into the locker much louder than before. This brutality violated regulations I had learned, but I did not know what to do having had  a miserable confrontation with another second classman that sent me to the hospital. He continued down the line using the palm of his hand to slam the next two plebes’ heads into the metal locker causing a thundering noise. Angry and indignant at the abuse he dished out to classmates against the rules, some power and voice inside convinced me to terminate the cruelty. He strutted in front of my face and started to move his hand toward my chin. “Sir, my father and brother graduated from the Academy and told me if any upper classman physically abused me by striking any part of my body, especially my head, he had committed a Class A conduct violation. They said I had the right and duty to defend myself. If you intend to slam my head against this locker I’ll defend myself and will turn you in for a violation of The Naval Academy Code of Conduct.” I hollered with fury on my face. He stared at me bewildered by an unexpected confrontation from a lowly plebe, but he knew my words correctly stated the rules and he could face serious discipline. I had challenged an upperclassman who could do me great harm for the rest of the year. He had a right to toughen up plebes, but not to assault them. I wanted to stop this before someone was bleeding and an inquiry would have to be held. This was taking it to the edge. For that brief moment I was determined to defend myself but shook with fear waiting for his response. “You’re all dismissed,” he said with a sigh like air going out of a helium balloon. In less than two seconds four plebes ran out of his room into Bancroft Hall and to our rooms. He never spoke to me again. How had my confidence helped me to threaten an Academy bully? I had tapped into a reservoir of power within to correct an injustice. The experience heightened my ability to assert myself and grow away from the shy sheep some considered me. My Presbyterian Church group met every Sunday from 10:30 AM until noon in Annapolis outside of the Naval Academy gate. A young minister led us in worship services. One Sunday he had a group of “freedom riders” address us regarding their commitment to social justice for Blacks subjected to discriminatory treatment in public accommodations in the South. The civil rights activists came from diverse backgrounds, including Blacks, Caucasians, and Hispanics. They ranged in age from eighteen to twenty-five. Blacks dominated the discussion. Beginning with a series of lively songs that spoke of the hardships of slavery, overcoming prejudice, and living in harmony with the white majority, they emphasized the non-violent nature of the civil rights movement despite abuse from police, the Ku Klux Klan, and agitators. Some hate groups had burned churches, homes, and even tortured and lynched Blacks and their supporters, but the protesters would not retaliate. Some explained how they joined with others to picket and boycott restaurants that refused to serve Blacks. One of their leaders had graduated from college and attended law school. He had a passion for the civil rights movement that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had started with a host of organizations and thousands of supporters. The law student asked all of us what we thought of the movement. These dedicated students fascinated and inspired me.  “I fully support your movement and wish you  success in the South," I said loudly refusing to remain stuck in a conservative mold just because I wore a military uniform. "However,the Navy prohibits us from participating in civil demonstrations.” As a plebe among a majority of upperclassmen making up our group of forty, I had acted boldly to demonstrate I agreed with their cause regardless of my status. They concluded their presentation sang a final rousing  song about freedom and banged tambourines. Our minister asked us to rise and give them a standing ovation. After they left, our minister asked me to talk with him privately as he dismissed our group to return to the Academy. “I can see you’re interested in participating in the civil rights movement. You don’t have to squander your active youth studying about the military, if you don’t want to be a naval officer. You can help this cause. Why don’t you resign and complete your studies elsewhere after you work for social justice now?” he pleaded. “I made a commitment to my father, family, and the Navy to graduate from the Naval Academy like my Dad and brother, did. That means a great deal to me. Following their example as a part of a legacy is something I want to do. My Dad frequently encouraged my brother and me to serve our country by experiencing the Academy education, discipline, moral teaching, and leadership that would help us no matter what profession we might choose after graduation.” “But the civil rights movement is here now. You have a chance to participate in making history and try to correct a grave injustice. You should follow your heart.” “It was a hard struggle for me to obtain an appointment. I want to complete my obligation. You mean well, but my word is a promise. Thanks for your encouragement and advice." Two upperclassmen from my company overheard this conversation and hurried in my direction as we marched to Bancroft Hall. Both from the deep South, who referred to Blacks in racist terms, walked behind me. One said, “Lavery, I‘m going to run you out of the Academy if you ever again express support for these communist civil rights groups.” My heart sped up, the adrenaline flowed, and anger filled me like gasoline on a fire as my eyes met his. “Yeah, Lavery, you better not support these groups that want to integrate America or I’ll see you are gone from the Academy,” said the other in a Southern accent. “I have the constitutional right to support the civil rights movement. We fight our enemies to preserve that freedom in case you have forgotten. The next time either of you threaten me for my beliefs, I’ll file a complaint against you for violating my constitutional rights,” I shouted  feeling my blood boil. Both of them muttered to each other inaudibly, but never bothered me again. Having defended myself from another attack designed to make me cower before blind authority, I knew of their opposition to anything that encouraged the Civil Rights Movement. They were products of a dying culture. Soon the next generation would replace their kind and show more understanding of all races I hoped. We continued marching to Bancroft Hall without further incident. In my room I sat down and pondered the emotional roller coaster of plebe year. On the one hand, I had exceptionally encouraging experiences that made me glad I left Duke to learn how a naval career would fit my aspirations. On the other, dark personalities lurked in uniform exhibiting racism, Neanderthal brutality, and ignorance, while others were high caliber leaders and admirable. Annapolis Jubilation Followed by Pitiless Revenge(click to expand)

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