CCAC to host “Vietnam: A Working Class War” on Saturday, September 22

Article by: CCAC Public Relations

PITTSBURGH-Community College of Allegheny County's Allegheny Campus will host a conference that explores the Vietnam War from the varying perspectives of Vietnam veterans, anti-war resisters and representatives from the Vietnamese community. The conference will take place on Saturday, September 22, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Foerster Student Services Center Auditorium and Lobby, followed by a march to the Vietnam Memorial on the North Shore where a ceremony will be held honoring T.J. McGarvey and the Pittsburgh Building Trades who built the memorial with donated labor. (A shuttle will be provided for those unable to walk to the memorial.) 

Co-sponsors of the conference are CCAC, the Pennsylvania Labor History Society and the Battle of Homestead Foundation. The event is co-chaired by Dr. Jacqueline Cavalier, CCAC professor of History, and Dr. Charles McCollester, retired professor, Industrial and Labor Relations, IUP. In a joint statement, the educators explained their approach as well as their overall objective in putting together the event:

"We have worked diligently to assemble passionate voices-some of whom have deep regional roots-from every side of the conflict for this conference. It is our goal for attendees to leave with an interpretation of the substantive lessons learned from the Vietnam War based on the experiences and reflections of the panelists and participants. It is our hope that the day's events will serve not only as an opportunity to reevaluate the place of the Vietnam War in the larger context of United States history, but to gain a deeper understanding from those who suffered as a consequence of the war and to pay tribute to those who donated their labor to build a memorial to those returning veterans of the war."

Brief remarks will be given by Dr. Evon Walters, president, CCAC Allegheny Campus; John Haer, president, Battle of Homestead Foundation; and Ken Wolensky, president, Pennsylvania Labor History Society.

The Vietnam Veterans panel will include:

  • Chris Moore, talk show host, KDKA radio and PCNC-TV; U.S. Army, 46th Engineers, 20th Brigade
  • Jack Wagner, former Pennsylvania auditor general and state senator; former Pittsburgh City Council president; U.S. Marines, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines Regiment
  • Nick Molnar, U.S. Airforce, crew chief C130; former president of United Mine Workers District 2
  • Pat Conroy, 1st Marine Airwing, HMM 161, Tango Security; Insulators Local 2

The Anti-War panel will include:

  • Rick Adams, director, CCAC Center for Excellence in Funded Programs; a leader of the 1968 Westinghouse High School walkout
  • Mike Stout, singer/songwriter and anti-war activist; co-founder, Indochina Solidarity Committee; former Homestead Steel Works Grievance chairman; United Steelworkers Local 1397
  • Carl Davidson, national secretary, Students for a Democratic Society (1966-68); writer for The Guardian (1968-76); Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism; Beaver County Peace Links
  • Sandy Kalson, U.S. Army (1963-1966); past president, Veterans for Peace; lawyer; labor arbitrator
  • Jessie Medvan, Pennsylvania Army National Guard (2000-2008), deployed to Iraq in 2005; lead organizer, Veterans for Peace Chapter 47 of Western PA.

The Impact on Vietnam panel will include:

  • Diana Nelson Jones, reporter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; little sister of Golf Company 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines
  • Tony Accamando, U.S. Army veteran (1967); co-founder, Friends of Da Nang
  • Koi Tran, former president, Vietnamese Association of Pittsburgh; publisher of books on Vietnamese history; editor of Dan Chim Viet magazine
  • Maria Somma, born in Pleiku, adopted by U.S. serviceman and brought to the U.S. in 1970; director of Organizing, United Steelworkers.
  • Pat Conroy, 1st Marine Airwing, HMM 161, Tango Security; Insulators Local 2.

Closing remarks, "The Importance of Teaching Vietnam in our Schools,"  will be delivered by Bob Matthews, North Carolina Vietnam Veterans, Inc.; The BridgeBack Foundation.  

The ceremony at the Vietnam Memorial will begin with an invocation led by the Rev. John Welch, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary; and Sam Hazo, Pennsylvania Poet Laureate.

Pittsburgh Building Trades will present "Building the Memorial" with:

  • Rich Stanizzo, business manager, Pittsburgh Building Trades Council
  • Greg Bernarding, business manager, Ironworkers Local 3
  • Larry Collins, platoon leader and company commander, 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne, Vietnam (1968-1969); officer of Ironworkers Local 3
  • Walter Bentley, IBEW Local 5, minority and diversity recruiter.

A wreath laying will take place to remember all casualties of the Vietnam War. Remembering T.J. McGarvey will be offered by Jean McGarvey and family. The benediction will be offered by a Vietnamese Catholic priest and Fr. Jay Geisler, St. Peter's Episcopal Church.

Tickets cost $25 for the general public; $10 for veterans and active military personnel. CCAC students, faculty and staff will get in for free with a valid ID. All attendees will receive a continental breakfast and boxed lunch. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to eventbrite.com/e/vietnam-a-working-class-war-tickets.

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