Bishop Packard arrested again

Bishop George Packard joined Occupy Wall Street for a march on May 1st, taking him past Trinity Church, Zucchotti Park, and then to Viet Nam..through a stop at the memorial at Veterans Plaza. It was here that the Bishop was arrested again.

So, we wended our way down past the infamous bull on lower Broadway with a surprising left turn toward Water Street. My legs were yearning for the benches around Bowling Green but sometimes the inscrutability of places like Trinity can only be matched by the likes of my young friends of Occupy. Where we were going? Enroute we all received this text message: “New Occupation Assembly at Veterans’ Plaza.” The NYPD continued an imbecilic ushering procedure by making us all squeeze past bumpers of parked cars instead of a byway 12 feet away. Somebody needs to get clear about what’s a stupid and what’s sensible tactic.

So this might be our new home! Before choosing curtains and arranging furniture you just wanted to sit down. It was then I realized I’d been there before. Back in 1985 the culture had warmed enough to the memory of the Vietnam War so we veterans finally “returned home” with a much-delayed ticker tape parade. I remember catching the train to that event and feeling self conscious in my old jungle fatigues. That ebbed away as I blended with thousands of other Vietnam veterans.

Here’s the irony: that was a different day but it was the same march route but in reverse…so emblematic of the errant course this nation has taken. After that march and this march I was still stopping to rest in the same spot.

Once there, you can’t help but think of the young men with whom you served. In those days I was an Army platoon leader.

As one memorial plaque commemorating a battle for another war in the western Pacific says, “we remember those who gave their lives for their country in the springtime of their lives. There, and in our memories, they are forever young, forever true…” And as I looked over the heads of this exhausted parade they seemed to embody a truth and a bond with that kind of witness. I was tired yet the

Memorial stirs you not only with quiet beauty but also by the ingenuity of the letters and poems in its facade: a yearning for home here…a missed and broken relationship there.

I’m probably at the end of God’s list of coincidental places from which to be arrested: church property on December 17th and now the Memorial for my fallen brothers and sisters on May 1st. And certainly other Vietnam vets have a different claim to this lineage. But for me it all made sense that the vivid memory of my comrades from one time should meet the insistent truth of new friends now. That clarity conveyed a hospitality of space I felt required to pass on and so I ignored the police instructions to leave the park.

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