Writers’ series: The Summer of Sixty-Nine

Editor’s note: Memorial Day will be observed May 31 – honoring the men and women who have died while serving in the military. Citizens across the land will memorialize the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. In a continuing writers’ series with the WhipCity Wordsmiths, we asked members to reflect on our veterans, the freedoms we enjoy because of their sacrifice, and how we can support the loved ones left behind. Today’s submission is by Glen Ebisch.

WESTFIELD-Glen Ebisch, of Westfield, is a professor emeritus of philosophy at Western New England University and a Vietnam veteran.

Ebisch has had more than 30 novels published, most of them mysteries. His most recent book is “Shepherd by the Sea.”

“I have been a member of the Wordsmiths for three years and value the opportunity to discuss the craft of writing with other authors,” he said.

Glen Ebisch has been a member of the WhipCity Wordsmiths for three years. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

His submission is titled “The Summer of Sixty-Nine.”

The Summer of Sixty-Nine

It could be any of the summers from the second half of the sixties. It was a time when there was a war and a draft that sent men to fight in that war. For those who were called on to serve in any of those summers, the memory of that time has remained unusually vivid to them. We always remember the days of our youth with a golden glow. Summers are sunnier and filled with skies of an extraordinary blue. The breezes are balmier and speak of adventure and romance. As the song goes, we see everything in kodachrome. The same is true even of unpleasant events from youth. There is a vibrant quality to past experiences because of their intensity, not because of the happiness they may have brought us. And for many men the summers of the late sixties were the most intense times they would ever experience.

Those who spent the summer of sixty-nine in basic training feared they were at the wide end of a funnel that would eventually drop them into war, and many of them were correct. For those who did take that long plane ride, hearing Peter, Paul and Mary singing Leaving on a Jet Plane, even today, instantly brings them back to sitting on a hard floor waiting to ship out. Some to never return, and they lost everything. Some returned but were never able to fit back in, and they lost much. But even those who returned and seemed to blend seamlessly into their civilian lives were probably never quite the same. Some were made better, some were made worse by their experiences, but no one was left unchanged.

For those who did come back, there was rarely a word of thanks. The blame for an unpopular war was placed on those who fought, even though many of them were as opposed to the war as those who stayed home. Today they are frequently thanked for their service because thanking veterans has become a habit, and memories of past controversies have grown dim. Whether that is full compensation for past treatment is hard to say. Why did they go? Part of it, at bottom, was because they were drafted and would have been ashamed to pass off their responsibility onto another man further down the line. Whether that justifies fighting in a morally questionable war is still up for debate. As with all deep social conflicts, much will always be unresolved.

Soon there will be few people who remember those summers. As with all events it will become part of history, which bleaches out the emotion, leaving only black and white. But for those who can still recall—sometimes as if it were yesterday—what it was like to be alive in those days; there will always be something special about the summer of sixty-nine.

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