Only the Beginning

In blue jeans or jungle fatigues, united they stand as each veteran steps to the microphone, speaks his few precious words, reaches back, hurls the fateful things onto granite steps.

“My name is Bruce Stennager from New York, and I have a Vietnamese campaign ribbon, Vietnamese service ribbon, National Defense Ribbon, and Purple Heart.”

“Andrew Bobocek from New York. I have the Vietnamese ribbons and a Bronze Star.”

“My name is John Morrow, and here’s a bunch of bullshit!”

“My name’s Peter Brannigan, and I’ve got a Purple Heart here, and I hope I get another one fighting these motherfuckers!

“Robert Jones, New York, and I symbolically return all Vietnam medals and service medals given me by the power structure that has genocidal policies against non-white peoples of the world.”

“This is for the brothers and sisters at Kent State!”

“For the brothers and sisters this year!”

“Second Battalion, First Marines. Power to the people!”

“Paul [inaudible], Spec 4, Army, retired. Green Beret. I’m taking in nine Purple Hearts, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, and a lot of other shit. This is for my brothers!”

“We don’t want to fight any more, but if we have to fight again it will be to take these steps!”

Organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, in April 1971, thousands of G.I.’s came to Washington, D.C., to protest the Vietnam War in what was called Operation Dewey Canyon III, [Dewey Canyon I and II were major offensives launched by the Marines in 1969 and 1971]. Told from the veterans’ point of view, rudely layered with archival footage, Only the Beginning examines some of the conditions that transformed decorated but disillusioned vets into inspired anti-war protesters. As one veteran explained, “A guy goes to ‘Nam and finds out that a communist is an eighteen year old kid or a woman with children.”


Third World Newsreel
VVAW’s The Veteran, (see page 16)