Vietnam War still stirs passionate divisions at Kent State May 4 events


* By Rachel Dissell, The Plain Dealer *

Spirited debate about the Vietnam War and its legacy lives on at Kent State University.

War veteran and anti-war activist Country Joe McDonald screened two short documentary-style films about the war’s impact at a gathering Sunday.

The reaction to the movies at Kent State — where the impact of that war may have been felt more than anywhere else — was divided and passionate.

The first film, “The Vietnam Experience,” a 29-minute musical montage directed by McDonald, follows the war from the recruitment and draft of clean-cut kids to the rocky return home of bearded veterans with blank stares. It features music from McDonald’s recording of the same name.

The second film, “Welcome Back Vietnam Veterans,” documents the 1985 ticker-tape parade for veterans in New York City.

The discussion, sponsored by the May 4th Task Force, was part of events marking the 40th anniversary of the May 4, 1970, shootings on campus. It was meant to paint the mood of the war as the backdrop for student protests at the Portage County university four decades ago.

Ohio National Guard troops fired on a crowd of students that day, killing four and wounding nine others.

Alan Canfora, who was wounded by a National Guard shot on May 4, said the link between the deaths in Vietnam and at Kent State are often overlooked, as are the reasons the students were protesting.

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The protests at Kent, and other American campuses, began in earnest after President Richard Nixon announced on April 30, 1970, that U.S. troops were invading neighboring Cambodia.

“It was because you guys were our friends, our neighbors and our relatives and we didn’t want to lose you,” Canfora said to the crowd of mainly veterans.

Canfora and other students lost a 19-year-old friend to the war and attended his funeral shortly before the protests began.

But some veterans in the audience took exception to the tone of the parade film, calling it revisionist history.

Read more at The Plain Dealer

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