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Lobby in Congress

By Scott W. Jacobs

(Special to the CRIMSON)

WASHINGTON, D. C.-Congressmen arriving for the noon rollcall yesterday at the Capitol must have wondered whether they were being button-holed by lobbying antiwar veterans or besieged by a rag-tailed army of madmen.

After a morning rally ended on the Capitol steps, groups of soldiers prowled through the corridors of Capitol and House office buildings, stopping pages, policemen, guards, tourists, and even sporadically a Congressman or two to ask directions or give counsel.

One such group-Crazy Chris's Crew-pursued their mission with reckless abandon.

"Do you know who we are?" Chris demanded of a silver-haired Congressman, who mumbled his recognition.

"We're Vietnam war veterans and we're going to stop this war. Do you agree?"

The Congressman agreed and the veterans rushed quickly on down the hall, stopping once to rip off a wall-poster directory of Congressional offices for reference, once to fill canteens in the members-only men's room, and once to help Maxie run his wheelchair down the basement stair ramps.

"We're going to lobby this place like it's never been lobbied before," Louis Redden, a former first lieutenant from Philadelphia, said as he strutted toward the House office subway.

"Yeah, dig it man," said Dave Chotner, a fiery private with 87 days left in the army. "Let's go find some hots (flaming hawks), I mean some real hots with Nixon's autograph on the wall."

The other three members of the crew readily as-sented. They are Don Kuykendahl, an active army private from Wadworth, Ohio; Bill Pecket, a vet from Paris, Texas; and crazy Chris himself-Chris Jiordano of Philadelphia, a one-armed ex-Marine who strolled the Capitol corridors with a uniform shirt thrown over his bare chest, and long, tangled hair thrown back over that.

On his shoulder, Chris wears a Purple Heart; in his pocket he carries war medals which he flashes in front of any guard who dares challenge his credentials. "I would of brought both my Purple Hearts, but my poor mama wanted to keep one," he explains apologetically.

Cannon Fodder

The five soldiers leap over the closed trolley doors and pile into a departing car which, by coincidence, carries the Honorable Strom Thurmond (R-S. C.). "Let me introduce our motley crew," Redden says quickly, reaching over the glass divider. "We're what you might call cannon fodder. We're the ones you send to get shot up over there, and they say you're a hot, so why don't you do something about getting this war ended."

Thurmond smiles broadly, and says, "Boys, we all want it to end, but we want it to end in an honorable way."

Crazy Chris fires up and blurts out, "Senator, we ain't got any honor left," but by this time, the trolley has stopped, and Thurmond is escaping down one corridor, as Chotner heads off down the other. "F. Edward Herbert (D-La.), that's the cat we want," he says, scanning the directory near the elevator.

"We'd like to see the Congressman," Redden explains to Herbert's secretary. "He's not in," a polite Miss Moore responds.

Waiting in the 'Hot' House

"Well then, we'll just sit here and wait," Chris says. "We got plenty of time. Veterans don't get jobs, you know. We just sit around and wait, so we might as well do it here."

And Crazy Chris's group did wait-for nearly 30 minutes-alternately foraging through Herbert's offices for a closer look at his mementos and fending off the angry, but restraining invitations from Miss Moore to depart.

"Your cause might be better served if you conducted your protest with more dignity," Miss Moore exclaimed. "You can't have dignity once you've been in Vietnam," Crazy Chris said again.

Something Terrible

Redden explained, "We're here to say that since being in Nam we've been radicalized and unless somebody gets the word, something terrible is going to start happening in this country."

"Well, Mr. Herbert would be the first to agree," Miss Moore interjected, but. Redden ignored her and continued in his speech.

"That picture in there of GI's storming the ramparts. That isn't the way it is. That picture makes me physically sick. We don't storm villages in Vietnam, we burn them; and these aren't soldiers we kill, but women and children. Do you know what a free fire zone is? Do you know that 60 per cent of all babies born in defoliated areas are malformed?

"Your Congressman thinks this war is like the last one, and he still wants us to keep fighting it for him. He thinks that when the college kids come down here on Saturday, he still has vets with him back home.

No One Left

"What I mean is when you've got Vietnam veterans against this war, there's no one left for him to fall back on. We're giving up our jobs, our schooling-we've given up everything-to come here for a week and stay until this war ends; and hawks like your Congressman better understand that right now.

"Will you tell him that?" Redden asked as Miss Moore suddenly discovered that maybe these madmen are only half-crazy. "You tell him, because if you don't, we'll come back and tell him ourselves."

Redden, Pecket, Chotner, Kuykendahl, and Crazy Chris rose altogether and headed off to find Agnew.

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