LZ Lambeau: Honoring the warriors or the war? | Wis.Community

LZ Lambeau: Honoring the warriors or the war?

"Honor the warrior, not the war," Vietnam Veterans Against the War's slogan says.

Sometimes that's a fine line.

Case in point: LZ Lambeau, the extravagant event at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, billed as a belated welcome home for Wisconsin's Vietnam veterans. Bob Herbert, NY Times op ed columnist, praised the event in his column this week, although his enthusiasm was mostly directed at a Wisconsin Public Television, "Wisconsin's Vietnam War Stories."

The Lambeau event no doubt is well-intentioned.   It's privately financed by corporate, individual and foundation sponsors, and produced by the state Dept. of Veterans Affairs, Wisconsin Public Radio and Television, and the Wisconsin Historical Society. None of them are warmongers, although some of the financial backers may be.

But somewhere, it seems to have crossed the line. Here's what the Madison chapter of Veterans for Peace says: 

A large scale event titled L.Z. Lambeau has been organized by the WI State Historical Society, the WI Department of Military Affairs, WI Public Television, and several veterans’ organizations, ostensibly to honor veterans who served in Vietnam.

Why now, after almost 40 years? Perhaps, it’s “deja vu all over again” as Yogi Berra once said! Post 9-11 hysteria has diminished and the American people are finally losing patience with yet another seemingly endless war.

We no longer have the industrial base to manufacture our way out of economic hardship as we did during World War II. The “sucking sound” Ross Perot warned us about has come to pass, as corporations export good paying jobs and avoid taxes by locating over seas.

The free fall in the value of our homes has also drastically diminished the tax base of all levels of government. Yet our federal government continues to spend over $400 per gallon and an average of $1.1 million for each soldier we send to Iraq and Afghanistan. We do this as our infrastructure deteriorates, our education system is no longer competitive and other basic government functions can no longer be properly funded. Even our food and water are no longer reliably inspected due to budget cuts.

Unsustainable levels of spending on this endless war on terror is economic suicide.

More than 80% of the casualities in the war on terror are civilians, most innocent bystanders or “collateral damage” to use the current euphemism. There have been hundreds of thousands of such casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan during the last nine years. Each injury or death may radicalize the family, friends, neighbors and countrymen to take up arms against our country. Peter Ustinov said “War is the terrorism of the rich, and terrorism is the warfare of the poor.” The war on terror is disastrously counter productive.

The events at L.Z. Lambeau seem more intended to promote militarism, support for the war on terror, and to boost military recruitment than to honor Vietnam veterans. The military equipment on display is current and Vietnam vintage, and clearly intended to impress the many high school students who will be taken to this event. The display of pride and camaraderie by aging Vietnam veterans is also ripe for exploitation by military recruiters to impress impressionable youth to join the military.

The use of the voice and image of well known Madison peace activist and Veterans for Peace member Will Williams to promote this event is a classic bait and switch. Will Williams agreed to help promote the event to provide balance to an otherwise pro war event. So far he is being denied the opportunity to be an integral part of the event at Lambeau field and speak on behalf of peace. As veterans, people of conscience and members of Veterans for Peace, we strongly object.

Yes, I'm a Vietnam combat vet, and no, I won't be at Lambeau for a variety of reasons. I'm afraid the same misguided thinking that excludes Veterans for Peace from Milwaukee's Veterans Day parade is at work here.  Buzz Davis of Madison VFP tells of their interaction with the organizers:

In 2009 WI Public Television contacted our Madison Chapter of Veterans for Peace.  Since that time one of our committees negotiated with them to set up the Memorial Mile exhibit at the Lambeau field area.  This is about a mile of tomb stones honoring the men and women of the United State who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan along with the Iraqi and Afghan civilians.    After long negotiations the exhibit was denied.  Veterans organizations like the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, etc. have animosity towards the Veterans for Peace organization and members.    We feel the LZ Lambeau event glorifies war, promotes the "warriors" complex, promotes the military/industrial complex, and has ended up serving as a gigantic recruitment opportunity for the military.  Hundreds of high school students will be bussed in for most of Friday, May 21st, and tour the exhibits, the Vietnam Wall and then witness 1,500 hundred or so motorcyclists rumble along a parade route across the city with helicopters as escorts ride into LZ Lambeau.

Welcome home, indeed.

John Zutz, president of Milwaukee's Veterans for Peace chapter and a longtime member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), says:

I'll be at Lambeau, and I'll be wearing my VVAW colors. I expect I'll get into some political discussions, and I'm interested in seeing what the displays will be. I'm mostly going in the hope of running into friends I haven't seen in a while.

I've made peace with myself, and I really don't need reassurance that I'm OK from people who don't even know me. I'm sure the organizers will excuse me for not getting too excited about a 40 year late welcome home.


May 15, 2010 - 10:12pm