Brian Willson came here five years ago on a speaking tour for Blood on the Tracks, his autobiographical account of conversion to peace activism that he sub-titled A Psychohistorical Memoir. In the first chapter "All American" he relates his rural apple-pie upbringing and his blossoming as a scholar-athlete. The book follows his enlistment and assignment to on-the-ground intelligence assessments for the Air Force in Vietnam. His revulsion at the wanton and sometimes deliberate destruction of non-combatants in the war led to his being transferred out-of-country with an "attitude problem."
|Brian Willson on the tracks, 1987|
He referred to learning from his experiences with the Sandinista peasants in the Nicaraguan revolution that "dignity trumps longevity."
* * *I come from a family of career military officers who could have applied these words to their own world. My father and two of his brothers received the Purple Heart for battlefield wounds during World War II.
|Cadet Roger Ray and LT John Ray, December 1941|
Six months after this photograph was taken they lost their older brother Martin in the Pacific. The citation on his award of the Navy Cross for gallantry commended his "extraordinary heroism and extreme disregard of personal safety as Engineer Officer of the U. S. S. Hammann during action against Japanese forces...." Roger was badly wounded in the invasion of Normandy and John in the Battle of the Bulge. Along with their Naval brother Alan they maintained a lifelong perspective of paying the price for peace.
I will have all these decent courageous men in mind when I watch the film this Sunday at the Cape Ann Cinema. Besides his sacrifice, I will be appreciating Brian's call to nonviolence and the tireless transformations to which he has devoted himself.
The producers of the film have engaged testaments of solidarity from many of the most noted peacemakers of our generation.
|Chick Marston on left, 1967|