When I returned to New York and resumed teaching at Benjamin Franklin High School, the Vietnam War was underway and teachers soon became aware that former students had been transformed into soldiers. At union meetings, teachers from around the city shared their grief for those former students that had already been killed or wounded, as well as their fear for other teenage warriors in harm’s way. The impact of thrusting such young men into a conflict for which they had not been prepared was made clear to me when a student came to tell me of his brother, who had been a student in my class only the previous year. After serving a tour in Vietnam, he had come home shattered by his experience, but his family discouraged him from talking about it. Only to his brother could he confide his despair, expressed repeatedly through the simile, “It was just like in a movie.” Opposition to the war grew, and in the spring of 1965, at a demonstration in Washington, D.C., Norma Becker and I ran into Staughton Lynd, who charged us, “You two have got to do something about this,” and we did.
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