Thursday, April 20, 2006


Getting back in the car, I was pleased to see that Ed was back with me, tired, drained but alert. I handed him one of the coffees and checked on my brother, who continued sleeping in the back of the Camaro.

“How you feelin`, Ed” I asked.

“Pretty good,Vince. Thanks for the coffee.” Ed reached into the glove compartment and grabbed a pack of Marlboros, lit two, handed one to me.

“Ed, what effect do you think today is going to have on the war?” I asked.

He sat back quietly, smoking. “I think the demonstration today has already changed the course of the war, Vince. Washington was only the major protest. I just heard on the news that there were demonstrations all over the country. Not just New York, LA, Chicago. Even smaller towns, even the Midwest. Draft cards being burnt, people just saying it`s enough. Man, I can`t tell you how happy I am.”

Ed lit another cigarette and continued. “When I was in Nam, I met all kinds of people, guys who enlisted, guys who were drafted. There were fervent supporters of the war, guys who really believed that we had to make a stand against Communism. And there were others like me who were just trying to survive, to get back home. In the beginning there were a lot of debates, arguments. But war wears you out. And I think what got most of us together was how the war was being waged. I think the political decisions being made in Washington were what caused all this unrest. If the grunts in Nam could sense that the U.S. was committed to winning the war, that there would be an offensive into the north, they would have supported the administration. But all we did was tread water, try to keep our place. Gets you frustrated; instead of being angry at the Viet Cong, you start thinking about everybody around you, dying. Dying for nothing. And that you might die, for no reason. Is your life really worth nothing? I think that`s how I became committed.”

Ed turned on the radio, fiddled with the dial, found a Baltimore jazz station. They were playing “Clifford Brown With Strings” soft, sad, beautiful. It seemed a perfect choice for tonight. Clifford was a Baltimore native, a brilliant trumpet player, who had died in a car crash, 28 years old, never to give us all he had. Just like the tens of thousands of young Americans who had given their lives in this senseless war, never to see their kids grow up, never to work and love, never to create. The music brought a deep sadness to me, as if for the first time I could understand Ed`s heart. I think he sensed this as he spoke, “On the way home, let`s stop for a beer. There`s a place I want to show you.”