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June 1, 2004

Simply As Wounded

by Bag Contributor Karen Green

On Memorial Day, the Sundance Channel ran a documentary called ” Unfinished Symphony: Democracy and Dissent.” It depicts a 1971 antiwar protest organized by the then recently-formed Vietnam Veterans Against the War: a march from Concord through Lexington to Boston (the reverse of Paul Revere’s ride).

The vets’ decision to camp out on the Lexington Green, evoking the actions of the Minutemen 200 years earlier, led to 410 arrests of vets and townspeople. The filmmakers use archival footage of interviews with the vets in ‘71 along with graphic footage and oral-history descriptions of what these vets had done to the Vietnamese — and, by some extension, to themselves — while at war. One of the images in the film is of two weary grunts in the jungle, supporting one of their wounded fellows, his face completely obscured by a huge bandage.

These were the images I saw on television as a young girl, before our government learned that its citizens tend not to support wars after they see what war does to our soldiers. The Imperial War Museum in London has an exhibit of the Art of World War I. The image above was painted by Eric Kennington in 1918, and it made me think beyond those bandaged grunts in Vietnam, to the thousands of G.I.s in Iraq who have been listed simply as “wounded.”

When you hear that there have been close to 4000 American troops wounded, you may think of simple bullet wounds, the kind we see in our favorite cop shows. The reality, as Garry Trudeau has been exploring in Doonesbury over the last week, is quite a bit grimmer. ‘Twas ever thus.

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