Airborne Division is the largest combat unit stationed at Fort Bragg.
FROM: YES To The Troops. NO To The Wars. The Story of Quaker House:
Call it quixotic. Or call it crazy.
June 1969: In Montreal,
John Lennon and Yoko Ono released their anthem, "Give Peace A Chance." In
Moscow, an international Communist conference wrangled. In Chicago, control
of the Students for A Democratic Society was seized by the violent
Weatherman faction. In Manhattan, what became known as the Stonewall riots
marked the rise of the gay rights movement. In Vietnam, more than 500 US
soldiers were killed in the ongoing War.
And on June 29, a
committee of Quakers arrived in Fayetteville, North Carolina. These earnest
liberals from the cultivated campus community of Chapel Hill were resolved
to bring peace to Americaís quintessential warriorís town.
Fayetteville was home to
Fort Bragg, one of the largest Army bases in the US In that summer of 1969,
Fort Bragg was busy putting thousands of draftees through simulated combat
exercises. These raw troops were then shipped off to Vietnam to face the
Besides the trainees
learning the basics of weapons and tactics, deeper in the postís woods
hundreds of Green Berets were preparing for more sophisticated and deadly
secret missions behind enemy lines.
On the map, it was a
journey of only eighty-plus miles. Yet culturally, Fayetteville was light
years from Chapel Hill. Plus the invading Quakers were outnumbered there by
a factor of thousands to one.
Nevertheless, here they
came, and soon they had established their beachhead, calling it Quaker
Forty years later, Fort
Bragg was still going strong. In 2008 it dominated the Fayetteville economy
and culture more than ever, and was deeply involved in two overt wars, and
numerous more secret conflicts. Peace, if it had ever come here, was only
the briefest visitor. Military strategists now spoke casually of being in
the early phases of what they called "The Long War."
Yet Quaker House was
still here too, despite the odds and other difficulties, and notwithstanding
the manifest failure to achieve its overall goal. Also like the post, Quaker
House was busier than ever in its fortieth year, and had likewise been
preparing for another generation or more of service.
Itís not really
remarkable that Fort Bragg is still active; since 1969, the American
"military industrial complex" of which it is a key cog has grown steadily,
war or no.
The perseverance of
Quaker House is another matter. When it began, as we shall see, it was part
of a nationwide organizing upsurge that produced dozens of antiwar projects
near military bases. But of these, there was in 2008 only one left, the one
that is the subject of this book.
What accounts for the
survival of Quaker House? What has it accomplished? Have its founders and
staff learned anything that could benefit others who are interested in peace
work, or a close-in but critical look at military culture?
These are big questions.
Letís sneak up on them, like a clandestine Green Beret team, beginning with
a tale about flipping the papers . . . .
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To The Troops. NO To The Wars.
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