Dan Gallagher served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967 and when he returned home, he was met with protests and derision. At first, he couldn’t feel proud of what he had done, or even talk about it, but as time passed, Dan found it useful to discuss his experience. When people thank him for sharing his story, he is only half joking when he replies, “No, thank you, because you gave me a free therapy session.”
“We never really had the chance to talk peace with the peace people, because everybody was shouting at one another.”
When we came back, we thought, “OK, now we can pick up our life where we left it. Now we get to go to college, have families, and have a house.” We’d been told that when you serve your country, there are rewards, and the biggest is that people welcome you back with respect.
The reality was a shock. I remember a young blonde girl who carried a sign that said, “Baby killer.” There was so much anger and hatred in her eyes. I wasn’t ready for it. When something is as unpopular as the Vietnam War, you don’t want any reminders of it. Unfortunately, the veterans were the most obvious reminder.
Time doesn’t heal all things, but it does put distance between them. Little by little, people in the peace community and people in the veteran community began to talk. No one who’s gone to war wants a war. The peace advocates were genuine. It was a chance, if nothing else, to turn down the heat on the stove.
Courage comes in a lot of ways and it’s not always on the battlefield. Courage comes in being willing to reach out to other countries, to other people.
Dan Gallagher short audio clip
Dan Gallagher full audio
- How do you make sense of the link between the title’s of “peace activist” and “veteran?” Are there any inhibitors for you that prevent you from overlapping those terms?
- How do you see the veteran community and the peace activist community working together? What are some things that would make it easier for them to work together?
- Where do you draw courage from to reach out to others? Or where could you find courage?
- What do you make of Dan’s analogy of the process of peacemaking to the process of weeding? Do you find peace in the “weeding” process itself (addressing points of difference) or do you view it as a unpeaceful process that’s necessary to get to peace?