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“The Vietnam War was more than thirty years ago. For many people who were there, it is like it was last night. It never goes away.”
Those are the words of one of two members of Vietnam Veterans in Canada who visited Nelson in 2004. Woody Carmack and Gerry Flowers were here to talk about their planned involvement in the Our Way Home Conference in 2006, and they gave me one of the most interesting interviews I conducted in my many years hosting Nelson Before Nine on Kootenay Co-op Radio.
Recently we’ve all been up in arms about some bad national publicity for Nelson, related to the dog bylaw. But that was nothing compared to the floods of hate mail City Hall received in 2004 from people all over the U.S. who were angry at a plan to erect a monument to Vietnam draft dodgers in Nelson.
The monument turned into the Our Way Home conference, and one day in late 2004, Vietnam Veterans in Canada announced they were going hold their own conference in Nelson simultaneously. Jumping to conclusions about this group that we knew nothing about, most of us thought this would be an attempt to disrupt Our Way Home or compete with it. But the truth was far from that. It turned out that Vietnam Vets in Canada is a service organization, reaching out to Vietnam Veterans who need help with posttraumatic stress and other issues, and they saw Our Way Home as a venue to reach out to veterans.
Flowers and Carmack are both Canadian Vietnam war veterans, and this discussion about why they are doing this work, why they planned to come to the conference, and especially their personal stories about their war experiences brought welcome relief from the rhetoric and the fearful politics of the issue in Nelson at the time.