Living in Society

What War Means

When I was in eighth grade at Holy Family Catholic School, we were required to keep a current events scrapbook. I still have mine. It has four sections: Vietnam, Nation and World, Local, and Misc. My grade on the project was an “A.”

I clipped this Associated Press photograph from the Times-Democrat, a precursor to the Quad-City Times. A soldier was shot, and in the image has just begun to fall. I thought of this image through the years because it reminds me of the reality of war. We need such a reminder.

The Vietnam War was ongoing during my high school years and prominent in society. That’s likely why one fourth of the scrapbook was clippings about the war. The idea we boys would all potentially face compulsory service weighed on those times.

Soon after my 18th birthday, Mother took me to the Selective Service office to register for the draft. Our 1966-1967 high school yearbook was “Dedicated to the struggle for peace in Vietnam, especially to those graduates who are or soon will be a part of that struggle.” Going to war seemed a real possibility that day.

While I was reluctant to get involved in anti-war protests, when four students were killed at Kent State, I participated in a demonstration at the Davenport Armory, carrying a mocked up coffin representing one of the dead. I also participated in a school strike, skipping our humanities class because there were more important things going on in the world. I gladly served detention for skipping class because I had done the right thing.

As a septuagenarian, we work to get rid of things that can’t be passed on. I’ll be keeping this clipping, my draft card, and memories from that time. The reality of war has become distant from us. It is sanitized by media and highly controlled public relations staff in the military.

It is important to remember what war means.

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