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tv   Reel America And Another Family for Peace - 1971  CSPAN  May 9, 2020 10:04am-10:39am EDT

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one who was a prisoner in north vietnam, a veteran who lost a leg, and a quaker spending time in federal prison for refusing to serve. in an early crowd-funding effort, the film was produced by another mother for peace using $1 donations from 20,000 people. [car noises] >> i know if i do not go now, i'm going to go later on against my will. i'm going to get it over with. >> do you have any family? >> i have a mother and father? [inaudible]
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>> how did you feel about it? >> upset. >> what did she say? >> to take care and write me every day. i tried everything. almost everything. no way. >> so what is your family going to do when you're away? >> live. worry, i guess. >> he was supposed to report but he just did not go. we tried everything. medical excuse, everything. and i am pregnant and i do not know what i am going to do. >> don't volunteer, whatever you do. [bus idling]
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>> you never know. >> vietnam is this nation's most anguishing problem. but the middle east is the most dangerous.
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ricky wantand, and to eat something? >> i don't. >> what? maybe ricky will. i really felt that way, too. i just feel that i can't possibly give another one of my boys to the service. but we are so very grateful to everyone for all the help they have given us. >> two months ago, this selective service center which covers most of the san gabriel valley notified dan willie that he was 1-a. yesterday he was notified that his induction had been postponed, but even if it had not been postponed, willie was going to go to school today. he does not plan to be inducted into the service. he's one of five sons in this family of west covina. three of his brothers have already served in vietnam. one died there. the willie family decided they had given enough, that this son should at least be allowed to finish college.
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he's the first man in his family ever to refuse service. his forefathers served in the civil war, the first and second world wars, and his brothers in vietnam. when his brother john died in vietnam, the family tradition of service ended, and his parents said no more. >> i know what they went through when my brother was killed and i'm not going to make them go through it over me no matter what happens. i'll never go in the service. >> we're not bluffing. it don't matter to them, but jeez, for four years we've had a monkey on our back. we are going to get it off one way or another. it just ain't going to be in this family anymore. it's awful. we're not putting up with it at all. it's over with us. >> i just hope they go ahead and give him his student deferment, for a while, anyway. of course, we hope it's going to be changed. that's what we want. anything to keep him out of
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service. keep us in the country. >> no, we won't do anything to keep them out of the service. there will be no medical in any way, shape, or form. when it comes to that, we're leaving. we won't go that route at all. >> i just felt that, and my husband felt, we had served sufficiently in this war, and that this family has been torn up by this war for four years, and if they take our other two boys, it will be another four years before it will be over for us. i don't know how to tell the story of how we found out. of course, we were notified by the army that john was missing first, and then five days later, that he had been killed in action. how did we feel? i don't know. i remember looking out the window, it was mother's day and
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people were coming and going and they were having company and so on, and i thought, why is the world going on? don't they realize that it's stopped? but, how do i feel? i really don't know. tom and i are very religious, and this is the only thing that saved us, i'm sure. we're very close. i remember when they gave us our gold stars, they gave us seven. one for each of my other five children, and one for my husband and myself. and i said to my daughter, they left seven gold stars, and she said seven, what a strange number. it was a strange number to us. we had had six children and there was a family of eight. seven never entered our mind until then.
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for months and weeks, and almost this whole year, tom and i have just wondered why we even try. what difference does it make what happens to you now? you get to the point where you think why are you living? we felt that we had raised our children, and now they were dying, and we just wanted to be with johnny so bad, that we thought maybe if we died that would be the best thing to happen to us. but i realized that you can't feel this way, that i'm sure my son is in heaven, and that someday we will join him, but you have to live for the others, too. i know this. but what a world of depression it can be to lose a child. [silence]
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>> i think the thing i found is that people don't know quite how to act. they are not quite sure whether they should come to you with condolences as if you had lost a family member. people kind of talk in hushed tones, as if they had a sense that you must be terribly ashamed to have a son who is a federal convict. when he was drafted in chicago, he became very much aware that he was a boy with a good education, he was able to talk well, who really only ever got a co classification for the draft board. it just seemed so unfair that he felt he couldn't string along
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with it anymore. his being in prison was something that we had to look forward to. he had no faintest thought of going off to canada, leaving his country. he felt very strongly that people who take this kind of a position do so really because they are devoted to their country and the principles to which it is based, and simply have to take whatever the consequences are of this kind of thing. and so, i think he accepted the idea that he would have to pay society in any way that society demands, and we did, too. he went in and gave himself up to the marshalls on may 4. >> take care. >> you, too.
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>> the prison system can break any man, and they make every effort to break every man, and this kind of apprehension i feel constantly. and i think elizabeth feels it constantly and it's the sort of
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thing, we don't like to talk about it. but i think it's there. and i think that's the kind of apprehension there is. do you agree? >> no, i do not. [laughter] it's not there at all for me. no, i have no question about that. physically, they can break a man , but i don't think they can break a man's spirit if it's rooted and grounded in love, if i can use a quaker expression. the kids are saying to us, you get into doing something yourself, resist this thing yourself in your own lives, don't leave it to us to do all the resisting. i have a very clear sense in my own resistance of feeling like i
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want to keep working and doing the things that i can do to raise the level of public understanding about the war, bring the war to an end. in other words, to do things with my life at this point, which rick isn't able to do because he's behind bars. [birds chirping] >> that was a sign for the day. i would like to tell you why, kindly. >> for the past 12 years, every year, i have taught about southeast asia, vietnam, but it's very difficult for me now, and if i can't teach anything
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objectively, then i would rather not do it at all, and i can't be objective about this war. you began to wonder, can you really teach the kids that this is the government of the people? all the people you know seem to have one feeling, but the government seems to have another. you wonder if you're being unpatriotic, as you're told you are when you're questioned, and when you work against government policy. i don't feel any less patriotic. almost a year from the time we were notified that his plane had gone down, there was a prisoner release, and somehow one of those prisoners knew that my son was alive and was in prison. i don't know what personally i
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-- what i would do or say to my son if i had it to do over again and he was leaving. certainly, i would say something. i wouldn't just let him go away not realizing what war was like. this, i think, is the thing that i think about often. whether it would have impressed him at the age the young man is. it bothered me because you could always think perhaps my son would be here, and perhaps he wouldn't be facing the bleakness of every day in prison, and the bleakness of no future that he can see other than prison. just perhaps. had i said what war was like. i think that his father and i both feel that our son is being abandoned, and before you know
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it, it's another christmas and you realize this is the third christmas your son is sitting in prison. when he's shown on some of the films made in prison and you look at his eyes, and a mother recognizes her son's feelings, i think, perhaps better than anyone, and though he doesn't look too bad physically, his eyes look so sad. as his father says, so far away, and then you know that he has that same feeling of despair. you sometimes think, should i go and be near him? perhaps i could go in and see him occasionally because that becomes the most important thing to you. for u.s.f detention pilots captured in the democratic republic of vietnam. dear mom and dad, happy wedding anniversary. as for me, i'm in good health and keeping my spirits up.
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say hello to all for me. love, mark. >> if i'm not here in future years when he gets out, at least he'll have some record. he'll know that some people cared. that some people were working for them. i may be naive, but i still feel that the majority of the people somehow can make their feelings known. i think that's the only way we can bring it to an end and i can ever see my son again. >> here you go. >> oh, yeah.
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that's right. try that one again. >> it is not necessarily important now, the war, as far as we are concerned. what happened to us, what happened to roy. it is what we to eliminate the can do possibility of war in the lives of our children, all children, not just our children. >> oh, boy. >> oh. [child talking] >> he is from a long line of ranching people. they ride horses. they work very hard physically, and they enjoy that excitement and challenge of a rodeo. oh, man. [laughter]
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you know, a bull in the arena is just not anything, and he put such a value upon his ability to ride, because he thought it made him happy, and it did. but it does require perfect health and good coordination, particularly two good arms and two good legs, and i'm worried about him an awful lot. >> i will give you another chance. >> everything else i've been able to get together, but now religious people are probably shaking worse. i was brought up in the church of christ. it's a fairly straight church. of course, then i had to go to vietnam and do these things that i was taught all of my life were improper. to this very day when i walk in a church, i feel like a hypocrite. i feel like i don't belong there, and i know you shouldn't feel that way in a church.
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sometimes i think that if i go to a church and participate, then i'm just living a lie, and i don't want my children to see me living a lie. >> where are you going now? don't run off. >> when roy was injured i tried to think about how he was taking it before i ever even saw him for the first time, because i knew the telegram said prognosis poor. but the pain, really, of the whole injury, or what happened, really didn't start then. it was later, when i would see him in the wheelchair, and other parents were playing with their children, you know.
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throwing the football, and i kind of thought i knew how he felt not being able to do that, and there were a lot of times when i was alone with our child, that i would see other families together. and -- i'm sorry. [crying] >> it was hard to get adjusted to everything. the way it turned out. you can't go out -- me, i can't go out and play football with my kids and teach them how. things like that. it's hard. but it comes around. the main thing is i can't let myself, if you get to feeling
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sorry for yourself and fall into that pattern, feel like the world owes you a living for it, it's going to rub off on my kids. and they are going to grow up right. and i'm not bitter against anyone, except just the way things are. they need to be changed. this war has got to be stopped. [bird chirping] [dog barking]
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>> when he was home, everything he had done on the farm, he tried to redo. he built fences. he took on the wagon and picked up the junk around. he lined up the machinery. he planted trees. he mowed the lawn. he plowed. >> he stayed in the field the last night -- >> he stayed in the field the last night until 10:30. and i think he knew that he wasn't going to come back. i used to get up in the morning before i would go to work. i used to tune into sydney, australia, and get the firsthand news 12 hours ahead before we would get it here. and about every three days we always got a letter from him. so we could follow his footsteps every day in the jungles. >> on thursday, that would have been the 19th of february,
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everything was upside-down, as far as my world was concerned. and i couldn't grasp, i didn't know what was wrong. i knew something was wrong, and i suppose this was probably the most terrible day in my life, and i cried. i sewed, and i cried, and i sewed. i made drapes. at midnight i called a friend of mine. i said lorraine, i have had it. whatever is ahead of me, i'm ready for it. so i was ready saturday morning, and when they came, i knew. when i saw the uniform go up the stairs, i didn't break down, i didn't cry. this is when i probably became the angriest mother in the world and i started my protests that very moment as far as the war was concerned. >> that saturday morning, it was a beautiful morning. the sun was shining. it was approximately a 45-degree temperature.
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and i was outside the house on the other side of the house. i was working on the antenna for television. and something just told me to come around to the other side of the house. and i walked around. up the walk, i saw -- first i saw the sergeant, and i saw the local pastor of our church about 15 to 20 feet from me, and i challenged them, i said is my son dead? he stopped. i said, is my son dead? and the priest said, why don't you come in the house. i said, no, i want to know. so i asked him a third time, is my son dead? and he didn't answer me. i came in the house, i called down to peg, she was down in the rec room. and i said, mike is dead. she came up the steps.
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the sergeant and the priest were standing in the kitchen. peg asked him, was my boy killed wednesday morning? and he said i haven't told you people yet that your son is dead. she said, well, the military doesn't give you the courtesy of telling you that your son is wounded, but they do fulfill the obligation to tell you that your son has been killed. >> my husband was upset emotionally. he lost complete control. that was his way, he had to do it that way. i didn't try to stop him. i let him go. i thought he was going to break windows and smash furniture. my first thought was to try to calm him down. then i thought, what the hell, his son is dead. he has a right to do this.
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>> my reaction to the death of my son was 25 years of my life torn out of me. and i was stunned. i couldn't see. i had great hopes for him because he had a great future. i just couldn't see why it had to happen. i was very strong in my bitterness, and i just couldn't accept it. it was only when they brought the body back and i was asked to view it, that i accepted it. when it went to the airport and escorted my boy's body to the funeral parlor, i asked to have his dog tags and the military said they still belong to the united states army. i said that's enough. from now on, the boy is mine. and i'll bury him as my son. not as a military soldier anymore.
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>> i have to live with this thing. i have to make his death a cause in my household. this is what i'm doing now. michael has to have died for something. and i think it's my duty to see that he did die for something. if i am protesting the war that's something i'll continue, -- if i am protesting the war, then that is something i'll continue to do. my feeling now is a feeling of guilt. i feel that i didn't do enough to enlighten my son. when a mother loses her son, she simply feels she didn't protect him. i suppose even if he's a man. he's 25 years old. she's still there fighting for him. i just didn't do it the right way. i think it is a mother's right. it isn't a patriotism thing anymore.
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this son is yours. he's part of you. they would have to drag him over my dead body to get him to go now. >> i was a father of world war ii. some of us have taken off our uniforms and some of us haven't taken off the uniforms. but i took my uniform off when i passed out of the discharge center. and i've had all the wars i want. and as for fathers, i don't understand how fathers can see their sons go to war when they know what war is. i don't understand it. i don't want any more of it. [shoveling sounds]
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[sound of the wind] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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>> i am donna reed owen, another mother for peace. you can write to another mother for peace in beverly hills, california. one million voices raised together will be heard. >> american history tv is on c-span3 all weekend and on you can watch lectures, tours of historic sites, archival films, and see our schedule of upcoming programs. sunday night on booktv on "afterwards," tara westover talks about growing up in the idaho mountains with survivalist parents in her book "educated," a memoir. >> i think my mother did a decent job of homeschooling. by the time i came along, she
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had seven kids, she was a midwife, and there was not a lot on.ime going i never took an exam and there was never anything like a lecture. at 10:00 p.m. eastern, the u.s. surgeon general with his book "together," on the impact on loneliness and help. >> many experiences of talking to friends on the phone but then find myself scrolling through an and i don't need to do that, it is so accessible it is right there and i fall into it, but it does dilute the quality of our conversation. and we cannot multitask. we do what we think are multitasking, which is between one thing and another very is important for us to ask the question now, how do we have the quality of time
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with people? >> march book to be on c-span2. if you like american history tv, keep up with us during the week on facebook, twitter and youtube. learn about what happened this day in history and see preview clips of upcoming programs. while the west @cspanhistory. @cspanhistory. when it was over, four students were dead and nine wounded. next on american history tv, we are joined by the author of "67 shots: kent state and the. end of american" the vietnam war and actions in the white house that set the stage for the national guard firing on


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