Growing up in the 1960’s was a challenge. This weekend marked the anniversary of 2 very different events.
Much deserved attention has been focused on the civil rights tragedy at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965, Blood Sunday. Protestors were turned back after a few blocks, attacked by local law enforcement with billy clubs and tear gas.
This was the first of 3 marches for voting rights in Alabama, starting with 300 and leading to 25,000 folks who joined Martin Luther King on his peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery, so brilliantly commemorated in the recent movie “Selma”.
This all led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed by President Lyndon Johnson.
This weekend was also the 50th anniversary of the arrival of U.S. ground troops in Vietnam. The Indochina War was decades old at this point. U.S. troops were the largest military faction there from 1965 – 1968, supporting the South Vietnamese in their fight against Communism. In Vietnam, this period of American involvement was/is known as the “American War”.
The official record cites just under 60,000 American casualties. There were so many more whose lives were destroyed. Some by drug addiction, PTSD, mental health issues of all kinds; alienated from family, friends, and a judgmental nation who did not welcome them home. The VA hospital in my home town was full of them.
In a blue collar town, college exemptions were rare. The children of poor and middle class families were most affected; some being drafted just days after high school graduation. They were sacrificed for a cause that few of us understood at the time.
Historians call it the “turbulent 60’s”. The year 1965 was a pivotal one.
May we never forget.