Sunday, January 23, 2011

Free Speech for GIs: Not a Review

Actor Howard Petrick is married to my cousin, Nora Danielson, and I'm not a credentialed theater critic, so this is not a review of Petrick's current one-man show, "Rambo: The Missing Years," finishing a one-week run in Austin today.

But here are my thoughts anyway.

Today's war critics in uniform have access to the web, but in 1968 they had only telephone, snail mail, and outside supporters with mimeograph machines.  When Petrick was drafted, his political views were not yet fully formed, but he knew going to Vietnam was a bad idea.  His grinding, irritating, low-tech but fully legal resistance to Army indoctrination landed him perilously close to a court martial charge for treason.  Saved by good lawyers, outside supporters and print and broadcast media fascinated by the story of a lone G.I. at Fort Hood, Texas, fighting for his free speech rights, Petrick ended up being booted out of the Army with an "undesirable" discharge.  His lawyers later litigated that label, forcing the Army to upgrade the discharge to "honorable."  (I'll try to obtain copies of those court records and post them here later.)

I'm honored to know Petrick, and thankful that all these years later, using the stage, he's still fighting for free speech for GIs...and for all of us.