In Washington Vietnam Veterans to Protest the War
(Special to the CRIMSON)
WASHINGTON, D. C., April 18- Dennis O'Brien, Roslindale High School class of '66, United States Marine Corps '66-'70, former helicopter crew chief in Long Binh, currently unemployed, is not your basic demonstrator.
Early Sunday morning O'Brien stood with 200 New England veterans behind the MBTA car barns waiting for rides to this week's Vietnam veterans antiwar rally in Washington- Dewey Canyon III.
When his name emerged from the coordinator's list of assignments, he swung his sleeping bag over his shoulder, ambled toward the car and introduced himself, "I'm Dennis O'Brien, and this is my old lady Monica. Where can I stow the gear?"
Forty miles outside of Boston O'Brien heard a radio broadcast from a Vietnamese station in the Ashaw Valley in Laos and commented cryptically, "They're gonna get their asses ripped. Everybody knows Ashaw is North Vietnamese territory. You can't march into that place. You can't even fly an airplane through it."
In Bridgeport, he pointed out the helicopter manufacturing plant where he did three years of Marine training- Sikorsky Helicopters. "They must make more than half the helicopters we got there," he said.
O'Brien told of coming back from the war last July and applying for a job, only to find that helicopter crew chiefs are in short demand and high supply. One of the more startling figures to come from the combination of depression and war is that 24 per cent of returning Gl's are now unemployed.
O'Brien thought it would have been more. He had heard, he said confidently, that units due home in the next month are backed up in Okinawa- "at the rear, where the government has left them because there are no jobs at home."
Reaching Washington, O'Brien joined about 600 veterans camped out temporarily in West Potomac Park. Leaders barked military-style into walkie-talkies, making sure there was enough food for dinner, directing groups from as far away as California, and overseeing medical preparations.
Throughout the area the atmosphere was one of togetherness, of cooperation touched with a bit of military polish. In one instance, when a self-appointed marshall tried to bar people from the meeting, another vet cooly told him, "Listen, man, we have no cops here, we are here to be together and we are going to be together."
As one policeman standing nearby put it, "I'd never seen demonstrators quite like these guys." Although veteran leaders have been expecting between 3000 and 5000 people, last night's total was estimated at only 800. However, as amputees pushed their way through the crowd, stopping to talk to friends or listen to harp or guitar music, crammed U-Haul trailers and buses pulled in steadily through the night.
One veteran spokesman last night attributed the low turn-out to the fact that many veterans have
had difficulty getting off work for the week. "I do think, however, that we should have close to 1500 by tomorrow morning," he said.
The veterans will rise at 7 a.m. tomorrow, the hour at which their temporary permit to use the park runs out. At 9 a.m. they will begin marching towards Arlington National Cemetery.
At the cemetery, a 30-minute memorial service will be conducted by a former army chaplain who served in Vietnam. From there, the veterans, joined by families of prisoners of war, will proceed to the Capitol.
The veterans then plan to meet a delegation of Congressmen and Senators on the steps of the C????l where guerrilla theatre search-and-destroy missions will be taking place. The group will set up a round the-clock vigil there, which will last until the operation is over on Friday.
Throughout the rest of the week the veterans- dressed in their olive-drab fatigues- will continue to hold guerrilla theatre raids throughout the city and lobby with members of congress, and lobby with members of Congress member of Congress.