“Let Us Not Forget, So That We Never Repeat” My Lai: A Litany of Remembrance and Repair

White_House_DCWritten by Bill Ramsey and Joyce Hollyday. The litany is being read and prayed in front of the White House today on the anniversary.

We remember those victims whose names we read today, and all the residents of My Lai who were killed while cooking breakfast, huddling beneath their homes, shielding their children, running from danger, or being herded into ditches.

Let us not forget, so that we never repeat.

We attend to the testimonies of the villagers who suffered rape and witnessed atrocity, to all who survived the massacre submerged in rice paddies, hidden in tree lines, and lying still under the bodies of their families and neighbors.

Let us not forget, so that we never repeat.

We recognize the soldiers who at some point during those murderous four hours in My Lai gathered the presence of mind and heart to refuse, ignore, or stop following orders to kill unarmed civilians, including Michael Bernhardt, Herbert Carter, James Dursi, Ronald Grzesik, Robert Maples, Henry Stanley, and Thomas Turner.

Let us not forget, so that we never repeat.

We honor those who intervened to stop the killing, who rescued villagers while holding their fellow soldiers at gunpoint and then immediately reported the slaughter, saving the lives of many others in the planned path of massacre: Hugh Thompson, Laurence Colburn, and Glen Andreotta.

Let us not forget, so that we never repeat.

We lament with all the soldiers who were tormented by what they did in My Lai, including at least one who took his own life as a result, and with all those who continue to be haunted by their actions that day, including William Doherty, Varnado Simpson, Michael Terry, and Fred Widmer, who publicly voiced their remorse and shared the trauma they suffered.

Let us not forget, so that we never repeat.

We salute those who courageously insisted that war crimes be investigated, including helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson, who would not be silenced; Ronald Ridenhour, who gathered accounts and sent letters to Washington; Ronald Haeberle, who held back a roll of color film from his commanders; and investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who saw to it that the truth of My Lai was finally exposed.

Let us not forget, so that we never repeat.

We are appalled to know that My Lai was not an aberration, that across Quang Ngai Province almost 70 percent of all villages were destroyed, 40 percent of the people were made refugees, and civilian casualties were close to 50,000 a year. We mourn the tens of thousands of villagers who were wounded and killed while planting rice, irrigating fields, cutting wood, gathering limes, fishing lagoons, herding livestock, and walking to market in hamlet after hamlet throughout the northern provinces of Quang Ngai, Quang Nam and Quang Tri.

Let us not forget, so that we never repeat.

We grieve for the more than 300,000 civilians killed or wounded by 1968 in free-fire zones across Vietnam, victims of U.S. artillery shells, helicopter machine-gun fire, napalm drops, saturation bombings, search-and-destroy missions, and the racist, unconscionable military order to “kill anything that moves.”

Let us not forget, so that we never repeat.

We celebrate the veterans who exposed the lies and took a stand—including all who testified at the Vietnam Veterans Against the War’s 1971 Winter Soldier Investigation and before the 1971 International Commission of Enquiry into United States War Crimes in Indochina.  We give thanks for all the soldiers, journalists, historians, and attorneys who boldly insisted that the crimes in My Lai were not exceptions to the rule but routine and rooted in the objectives of the U.S. war.

Let us not forget, so that we never repeat.

We voice all these names and lift up these lives today so that their suffering, and their courage, will not be lost to history. Fifty years later, those who sacrificed reputation, safety, and life beckon us to expose and name our My Lais: to speak truth to power; to embrace risk; and to take upon ourselves the responsibility to work for reconciliation and repair in a world that still runs on lies and profits from violence. We give thanks that their legacy lives on, as we seek the clarity and courage to carry it forward.

Let us not forget, so that we never repeat.

Many of the people named and images presented in the Litany are from accounts in Howard Jones’ My Lai: Vietnam 1968, and the Descent into Darkness (2017) and Nick Turse’s Kill Anything that Moves (2013), and Yorkshire Television’s film Four Hours in My Lai (1989).

2 thoughts on ““Let Us Not Forget, So That We Never Repeat” My Lai: A Litany of Remembrance and Repair

  1. Thank you, Bill and Joyce. I am sharing this with my daughters. They don’t remember how devastated their daddy was at the war in Vietnam.

  2. You could definitely see your enthusiasm within the work you write.
    The sector hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe.
    Always go after your heart.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s