Stu Soffer, the bumptious White Hall Republican and state election commissioner, is gnawing a new bone, a March 29 event at UA-Little Rock to pay tribute to those who served in the military during the Vietnam war.

This is part of an ongoing national commemoration of the war in Vietnam, viewed (see FAQ) as covering a period between 1955 and 1975.


Soffer, a veteran, is among those objecting to a tribute to all veterans of the Vietnam era, rather than only those who served in the country during times of combat. Soffer himself passed through the country during that time, but not long enough to constitute in-country service. He doesn’t think he’s deserving of honor for that.

What better way to remember Vietnam than with some protests, which helped end our involvement in the quagmire?


Soffer has inquired of UA-Little Rock about a “peaceful” protest at the Jack Stephens center where the event is planned. He’s been informed that UA-Little Rock has a free speech zone, some distance removed from the center. With proper advance notice, a group can receive permission to exercise free speech there in whatever legal fashion it may choose.

Soffer has distributed to media his response to UA-Little Rock’s rules for campus demonstrations. It complains about distance from the event. He says:


We are entitled to professionally and peacefully exercise our First Amendment right and communicate with attendees our objections to the United State government decision to declare all who served as Vietnam Veterans regardless if they are or not.

We are trying to be both congenial and professional about accomplishing our goal. I don’t believe UALR wants the specter of university police removing Vietnam combat veterans and retired service members and veterans in our over 70 age demographic wearing all sorts of medals for valor. All we ask for is to permit a limited number of participants to exercise their First Amendment right in front of the Jack Stephens Center for less than 30 minutes on March 29 from approximately 9:30 a.m. until 10:00 a.m.

I don’t much like free speech zones either, a technique perfected in the George W. Bush era to keep protests out of sight. Colleges and others, more and more, are insisting on orderly 1st Amendment exercises. To echo the NRA on the 2nd: What part of “shall make no law .. or abridging” don’t they understand when it comes to speech?

On the other hand, if UA-Little Rock gives special consideration to some elderly codgers who promise to behave, they might have constitutional problems in refusing similar treatment for others less lovable in the future.

In keeping with the context, I think Soffer SHOULD hike down to the Jack, perhaps with daisies to stick in barrels of campus security weapons, and offer himself up as a martyr to his cause. He told me he “cannot afford to get arrested.” That’s hardly in the spirit of the era.

As for his core complaint: I understand where Soffer and others are coming from, particularly given what we know about how some sons of privilege found ways to avoid service or action. The Montgomery Country Club was a long way from the bloody jungles of Vietnam.


Still, I don’t recall World War I and World War II tributes being segregated into war zone and non-war-zone service, though many among those who weren’t casualties certainly made greater sacrifices.

I think of my own family.

My maternal grandparents both enlisted in the Army in World War I. My grandfather was stricken with influenza. He was hospitalized at an Army camp in Louisiana and never shipped overseas. My grandmother was a nurse. She went to France and tended the front-line wounded. But my grandfather’s lack of trench service wasn’t for lack of trying. He was a first-generation American by the way.

My own parents both enlisted in the Army in World War II. Fate sent them both to India. My dad was in a radio unit. He worked with planes flying the hump. My mother was an Army hospital dietitian. She planned meals for the sick and wounded. They never saw combat. Still, they signed up to go who knew where.  They did chance to meet in Delhi, so I’m able to tell their story.

I have friends who  served tours in Vietnam. One, an Army paymaster, and another, a ground-based Navy enlisted man, say they mostly fought boredom.

I appreciate them all.  I also got no quarrel with Stu’s protest. Right on, brother!