Throughout this effort, we have kept in mind that our goal is to maintain a spirit of understanding and empathy for the young people that we were then, faced with tough choices. We have tried to avoid having any biases when asked questions by classmates as to the purpose of this exercise. We have tried to encourage all whom we could contact to participate. WE ARE VERY GLAD SO MANY OF YOU DID!
A Tribute from Pete Rogers
In 1963 we were selected and summoned by a great institution of learning. We converged in September, eager and perhaps a bit apprehensive. We had worked hard to get there and we were all bright and capable............teenagers! Not any of us then had any idea of the ways in which the " real world " would soon impose itself upon us. We were barely into our freshman year when President Kennedy was killed. From that point on, the shadows only deepened.
By 1965, the ominous scope of the Vietnam War was evident and by 1967 it appeared that the society that had nurtured us was unraveling. By June of that year we had dispersed to meet our individual fates.
VIETNAM! It was certainly not the war our fathers had fought. It lacked the moral clarity of their war and it lacked the harnessing of an entire nation to a great common purpose. As time went on, the reasons for "our" war became more tenuous and the prospect of defining victory more elusive.
175 of our classmates have captured that era of stress and difficult choices. In this book are stories of desperate combat, of determined resistance to the war, of struggles with draft boards, the legal system and medical reviews, of career changing experiences in the Peace Corps or alternative service as conscientious objectors, of bitter family disputes and of unanticipated rewards to be found in military service. There is, finally, a full assessment of the effects that war had on us for many years thereafter.
Above all, though, there is some really wonderful writing, in poetry and prose, writing that is deeply thoughtful and heartfelt, sad, rueful, sometimes bitter, sometimes funny. I have read this splendid book three or four times, and I shall read it again before the reunion. Each time I have read it, it has offered up different gifts, but what it has given in the aggregate is a great sense of...........collective decency and reconciliation.
It has been a pleasure and a great privilege to have worked for the last two and a half years with the other editors, Beth Hadas, Ted Hammett, Tim Hatfield, Charlie Kimball, Jim Metcalf and Tony Obst. And we all owe a special thanks to Charlie who first had the idea of this book and has been tireless in seeing to its completion.
At the reunion there will be a three hour open microphone session at which other classmates may tell their own stories or comment on the book.
Finally, there is no way to give sufficient thanks to the 175 men and women who contributed to this book. As you will learn, these stories were not easy to write. This is a magnificent archive of a time and circumstance now fading in memory.
Thank you, Pete Rogers
A Tribute from Beth Hadas:
We call this book The Choices We Made, but it could also be called The Lessons We Learned. The men in our class fought, or became activists, or did public service, or went to Canada, or considered themselves lucky if they were classified 4F. The women had their own stories. No one was unchanged by Vietnam. Read these recollections and you will be surprised and moved.
Vietnam shaped all of our lives, and our accounts of how that happened are vivid and poignant.