: Classifieds : MyJU :
Stories: Community
Browse Community Stories: « Previous Story | Next Story »

One man's crusade for world peace

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-05-24

Allen Nelson has been the voice for peace for the last fifteen years. The Vietnam War Veteran recently visited Okinawa, as part of a three month, nation wide speaking tour around Japan. His message is clear and simple. He is against violence and militarism, and he spends his time making both Americans and Japanese aware of the realities of war. Drawing upon his own experiences as a combat soldier in Vietnam, Nelson brings true feeling to his words.

"People don't know what war is. It's presented like a game. they need to know the reality, struggle, and sacrifices people make during a war," he said. Sitting under a tree, shaded from the sun that had just appeared after a morning of rain, Nelson was taking a breather. He had just walked from Gate 5 of Kadena to the Okinawa City Civic Center, where a small group of demonstrators had gathered to protest U.S. Military Bases on Okinawa. "The world is not a safe place because we have militaries. We need to close down the bases, and send soldiers home to get jobs," continued Nelson.

Like most of the other demonstrators, Nelson does not have any personal grievances with the members of the Military, but is against the Military system. He shows much concern for veterans and individuals who are currently enlisted in the military. "It is shameful how veterans are treated after they serve their country. Gulf War Veterans are having a tough time, having to prove that their health problems are connected to their time in the Gulf War. This is shameful. There's always a lot of support for you when you're in the military, but once they're done with you, they're done with you. Most of these men don't have the education to find jobs, housing...etc. It's a real struggle for them. Some of the highest unemployment occurs among ex-military." he added.

Nelson, who is a member of "Veterans For Peace", also spends much time back in the U.S. visiting High Schools to bring his message to the youth of America, who are also the prime target of recruitment for the U.S. Military. He actually began his crusade fifteen years ago, when his son, then in high school, brought home a handful of literature about the military. "I was shocked that a recruiter could come to a high school. Here was this recruiter buddying up to my son and other young men, and shooting hoops with them. I thought that there had to be another voice for these kids. Even when I was young, I always heard only the glory stories about war. I used to listen to my uncles talk about the Korean War, and I thought that they were heroes. A recruiter never comes and tells about the horrors of war. The reality is that a recruiter should first ask; Can you kill?" Fatherly advice and firsthand stories about war stopped Nelson's son from enlisting. He instead went on to get a Masters Degree.

As we talked about his experiences, groups of young Japanese came to give hugs to the man they obviously respected and felt was their friend. Nelson has been to Okinawa before, but his first visit to the island was on much different circumstances. When I first joined the marines, I was so proud. I came to Okinawa for "Advanced Guerrilla Warfare Training" in 1966. I was pissed off when I first got here, because I thought the war was going to end without me. When I did finally get to Vietnam, I was a soldier with a top-line combat outfit, the 1st Battalion 5th Marines. This was an outfit that saw death," again recalled Nelson.

"None of it hit me at first. I was gung-ho. I really believed in that stuff they told us. I guess I was naive, but the reality was that the ones who were suffering were mostly women, children, and old people. I spent 13 months in the bush - in the jungle. It took me a while, but I slowly began to realize the pain of war, and that everyone was just killing each other. I remember this one incident when we were being sniped at. Me and six others were told to go and find the guy. We finally came across this Vietnamese guy with no rifle, but we knew he was the one. We began to beat him, while questioning him. We wound up breaking his leg, and no one wanted to have to carry him back, so we talked it over and decided to kill him. He must of known what we were going to do, by the look on his face. Just before we were ready to kill him, he looked at us and shouted out in broken English "Why are you here fighting and killing Vietnamese people, who are fighting for their own freedom, when you also don't even have freedom in your own country." All of us were African-Americans, but at the time it didn't mean a thing to us. We killed him and went back to camp. It just didn't have the impact right there, but later we started to notice things. My sister sent a picture from the newspaper from home, showing Martin Luther King and other protesters getting beat for demonstrating back home. Those words began to echo in my head. I also began to realize that those of us that were fighting were mostly the poor white, black, and Hispanic kids. There were no upper middle class or rich kids dying. That's when I began to wonder what we were all doing there."

Nelson went on to explain some other experiences that helped him to realize the atrocities that war brings with it, but it was obviously all the terrible waste of human lives that began to eat at him. "When you kill someone it hits you. It hits you like a ton of bricks. Even though someone is firing at you and trying to kill you, once you return that fire and realize that fire is no longer being returned, you say to yourself - Oh my god. I've done something really bad. The military tells you that you'll get over it, but you never do. Every time I killed someone, I felt I was killing a part of me. I want kids to realize this. If a young kid wants to join the military that is his business, but I want them to know the truth first." Nelson said.

Reflecting on his experiences, Nelson paused briefly and pointed to the spot we were sitting on. "I know what took place here. Just where we're sitting someone got killed. This place deserves peace. The war is over. These people deserve the right to raise their children without any bases. It's not right."

Nelson will be returning to Japan again in August, and is also planning a trip to Vietnam to help bring some closure to his experiences there. "I know that my friends that died in Vietnam want me to do this. They want me to tell the truth. I was lucky to have survived. I have to share my experiences for world peace."

Many Okinawans know exactly what Nelson is saying. For the rest of us, who have been fortunate to have never experienced such a dreadful thing as war, the bottom line is - war is hell. So why do we continue to kill each other?

Browse Community Stories: « Previous Story | Next Story »

weather currency health and beauty restaurants Yellowpages JU Blog

OkistyleOkistyleJU Facebook

Go to advertising PDF?||?|o?L?qAE?|?}?OA?N?ga`OkiStyle?A??q?qM?oeu^?I`??N?gX?<eth>?<ETH>?ni^?IWanted!!Golden Kings ScheduleOkiNightSeeker