by Carol Becker
On August 19, 2009, former Army Lt. William Calley spoke to a Kiwanis Club meeting in Greater Columbus, Georgia, and for the first time publicly admitted his regret for his role in the My Lai massacre. "There is not a day that goes by, " he said, "when I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai. I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry."
For those of us who grew up in the intensity of the 1960's and in the pain of the Vietnam War, this long-awaited admission stirred deep emotion. Calley had always been symbolic of the brutality of those times and of the cover-up of horrific acts by individuals and the US government. He also represented the country's polarization between those who opposed the war and those who turned men like Calley into heroes. That he could finally say how desperately painful his life has been since that horrific event has allowed us all to continue a process of disclosure and healing that is still necessary, forty years later, if we are to recover from that war. Vietnam the war has never really ended for those in the US who grew to adulthood in its shadow, because of the depth of denial. We, as a nation, have not been able to say: "This should not have occurred." As a result, we continue to engage in other fabricated wars and to create new generations of soldiers and civilians on all sides of these conflicts who cannot recover from the trauma of what they have experienced.