This post is a little late. But I couldn’t get it out of my head, so here we go.
On May 4, there was a remembrance for the people killed and wounded at Kent State University in 1971.
So , let me take you back to those times.
As a teenager , one of the things that all males of my age had in the back of our minds was the draft. The Selective Service had a lottery to determine in what order young men of draft age could be called upon to serve their country. Your date of birth was the determining factor.
If, for instance , June 4 was called first, everyone with that birth date would be first in line to go into the service.
Every year the lottery would take place.
Why was there such concern about this, you ask? Well, we were at war in a country called Vietnam. We had been for several years and there didn’t seem to be any end in sight.
Now there was a way out of the draft using something called deferments. But as the manpower requirements increased, less exemptions were allowed.
There were protests all over the country, especially at college campuses, where the highest number of people affected by the draft were. Some fairly peaceful protests, some not so much.
This day at Kent State, there were some protests and the National Guard had been called out in response to someone burning the ROTC building earlier in the week.
But, and this turns out to be a very important “but”, classes were still going on.
At some point, the protesters and the Guard found themselves at a standoff.
Teargas canisters were fired into the group and the students threw them back.
A haze developed in the area. The Guard started to retreat and then, for reasons that remain a mystery to this day, the Guard opened fire on the students.
A single volley of bullets killed four young people and wounded nine more.
Not all of the casualties were actively involved in the protest.
Just kids walking past the commotion on the way to their next class.
I can hardly believe, all these years later, that such a thing happened on an American campus. But even harder to believe is the school of thought that those kids had it coming. I guarantee you that kind of thought exists to this very day.
A couple of days later, two students were shot at Jackson State.
The title of this post comes from a Neil Young song called “Ohio”.
Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio
The war continued on for a few more years. The draft lottery ended the year I would have been eligible for it.
The legacy of that war and time have been argued ever since then, with a begrudging admittance that maybe we should not have been there in the first place.
In my family,my cousin Kurt, was a soldier in Vietnam.
One day in 1969, he was killed while in a helicopter. He had been wounded two times before but went back into combat knowing all too well the risk.
20 years old. One of the 55,000 names on a wall in D.C.
I don’t write about politics even though I have always had an interest in the subject.
But I almost always end these posts with one word because I really believe in it.