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A Veteran Day's Camberwell Tale By: Rick Heller
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, November 11, 2002


Here in Camberwell, we like to think of our town as New England's most progressive community. In some towns, Veterans Day is an excuse to honor men who've barged into another country uninvited and shot it up. But to march in Camberwell's Veterans Day Parade, you have to be a veteran of an anti-war demonstration.

Leslie Anson returned to Camberwell thirty-five years after she'd arrived at the University as an undergraduate. More than anything, she came back because she heard Ted Hatcher would be there. Ted was going to be honored for his role in splattering goat blood on the steps of the Pentagon in 1967.

Leslie thought of herself as a co-ed back then, and came to campus seeking an Mrs. degree. Ted was already a legend at Camberwell University, and when she saw him with his flowing locks of jet black hair, she was smitten. She joined the Mobilization Against The War just to be near him, though later it turned into an enduring commitment.

The veterans assembled at a playground at the start of a parade route that would wind half a mile though city streets to a reviewing stand at Camberwell Common. Each group of veterans marched behind a banner recalling past
achievements.

Leslie joined her unit, made up of veterans of the 1969 Vietnam Moratorium protests in Washington. She studied the faces of the men, wondering if Ted was among them, wondering if she would even recognize him.

A woman approached her. "Are you Leslie?"

"Yes."

"Remember me? Pamela Lakis?"

"Pam!" Leslie embraced her. "It's great to see you."

"You look fantastic, Leslie."

"Thank you. Who else is here? Have you seen Ted Hatcher?"

"Not yet." Pamela drew aside two other women. "Do you remember Karen and Alison?"

They were a total blank to Leslie. Camberwell U. had sent four busses down to D.C. for the Moratorium, so she couldn't be expected to remember everyone.

"You look familiar," Leslie said. "But I can't really place you."

Along the line of march, the four women exchanged memories and filled each other in on their lives, careers, and families. The reviewing stand came into view, accompanied by a constant patter from the public address system.

"Folks, let's give a rousing round of applause to the pioneers of the anti-war movement, the hardy few who were at the first Vietnam protest held in Camberwell, way back in 1965!"

There were cheers from the reviewing stand, and bundled-up little boys blasted blue plastic trumpets.

The unit ahead of Leslie's marched past the stand. "Now let's hear it for the men and women of 1967, who brought the war home to the walls of the Pentagon!" There were hoots and hollers and rhythmic stomping that reverberated from the stand.

"Let's have a hand for the veterans of 1969, who stood up to Richard Nixon!" Leslie's unit stopped for a moment to savor the enthusiastic applause.

Pamela elbowed Leslie, and pointed to the reviewing stand. "There's Ted. Second row, in the black denim jacket."

His hair was still black for the most part, but the flowing locks were gone, and his hairline was receding, though only slightly. She would not have recognized him on her own.

"I was with Ted underground," Pamela said. "Do you remember after the Physics building was bombed, how a few of us dropped out of sight? Ted and I lived together in Detroit under assumed names for six months."

"You and Ted?" Leslie asked. Pamela nodded.

"How could that be?" Karen asked. "I lived with Ted in Chicago during that time. Our ID's stated we were Mr. and Mrs. David Haussman. We were together until the charges against him were dropped because the FBI's wiretap was illegal. Then, Ted returned to Camberwell for graduate school while I stayed in Chicago."

"That's bizarre," Alison said. "Ted and I lived in St. Louis as Ron and Mary Gottfried. It's true he was out of town a lot, but that was for Movement work."

"Ted and I were Robert and Linda Johnson," Leslie said. Leslie thought back to the time that she lived with Ted in a run-down neighborhood of Cleveland. She felt like a prisoner in that dingy apartment on nights when he was out of town. It was unsafe for a woman to walk alone in that neighborhood, and she grew angry as she thought of all those nights alone.

"I guess we're all veterans of Ted," Pamela said.

The march came to an end at the Common. Ted emerged from the reviewing stand, and along with the Mayor, climbed onto a platform next to a large red maple. Leslie and her friends pushed their way to the front of the crowd.

"It's important to recall," the Mayor said, "why we are here today. I call on Dr. Edward Hatcher, Distinguished Professor of Civics at Camberwell's Graduate School of Public Affairs, to help us remember.

Ted shook hands with the Mayor, and gave a speech outlining the reasons for anti-war resistance. "It is my dearest wish," he concluded, "that the young people in this audience will keep our example in mind. I hope none of you will ever choose to become soldiers."

The Mayor clapped him on the back. "We've always been inspired by your leadership, Ted, and today we offer you this silver-plated cup inscribed with your achievements. At this time, could I ask your lovely wife to come up on stage?"

A path was cleared for a blonde woman who looked ten years younger than Ted. Leslie glanced at Pamela and then at the others. "Sisters," she said, "shall we?"

Joining hands, the four veterans followed the younger woman onto the stage.

"Ted, remember me?" Leslie asked.

"Ted, remember me?" the others echoed. They crowded around him and smiled as the photographer from the Camberwell Chronicle snapped a picture.


Rick Heller is a comedy writer who lives in New England near the fictional town of Camberwell. He also produces the Smart Genes weblog.


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