Colby, Too, Should “Be Ever So Proud of Mike”
As one of those who wrote a “somewhat pointed letter” in response to Professor Cal Mackenzie’s retrospective on his return to Vietnam, I commend Bob Lloyd ’68 for his thorough and appropriate revisiting of Colby’s losses during the Vietnam War (“On the Vietnam War, Setting the Record Straight—Again,” Colby, fall 2013), and recommend to the Colby community the article he referenced.
Certainly Vietnam was, as Jan Scruggs, founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, noted, “that kind of war”—a war where ambivalence about the war and the men and women who served in it dominated. Mike Ransom ’66, one of those Colby men at war, expressed this feeling himself in one of his letters home, which his parents had published after he was killed in May 1968:
I did hear Johnson’s speech of de- escalation and non-candidacy and thought it the best of his career, not just the way he said it. It created in me a great sense of hope that this foolishness over here will end fairly shortly. There is not a man over here that wants to see this war go on any longer. That is not to say that anybody shrinks from doing a job. But everyone is as confused as I as to exactly what, if anything, we’re accomplishing and wants the war over ASAP.
Certainly during that terrible year of 1968 the country as a whole lost whatever sense it might have previously had that the war was somehow worthy of the loss of those fine young men. President Johnson’s decision to forego a second term, which was made only a few short weeks before Mike Ransom’s death, was perhaps—if unintentionally—the most public acknowledgement of this sense of loss.
As Lloyd so eloquently suggests, it is important that Colby not shy away from continuing to explore the unhealed wounds of Vietnam. I think it is worth note that in recent years the men and women who served in Vietnam are now honored for their service in Memorial Day parades and other events, even if the war in which they served continues to engender deep and troubling emotions. David Barnes ’68, Leslie Dickinson ’67, James Hunter Shotwell ’62, and Ransom deserve such recognition and honor, not just on the Wall, but in the history of Colby. How their deaths, and how the legacy of Vietnam may have shaped those of us who lived through it, is a subject worthy of continued discussion.
Perhaps, if we can separate the war itself from the warriors who fought in it—those who lived, like Lloyd and Mackenzie, and those who died—we can better come to grips with its legacy and meaning. Most of the young men on the front lines, I daresay, wished to be anywhere else than in combat. That they did their duty is a tribute to their dedication to themselves and to the men and women with whom they served and whom they led. The political machinations that led to the war mattered little to them. What mattered was living through it as best they could.
As the discussion continues among Colby men and women, it may benefit the dialogue to recall the sentiments expressed in a letter to Mike Ransom’s parents from Army Nurse Captain Connie Schlosser after his death in a San Francisco military hospital on May 11, 1968. She spent Ransom’s last hours with him and was heartbroken by his death. “I’ve never written a letter like this,” she wrote, “but in my six years of nursing I have never met so courageous an individual as your son. … I guess I really wanted you to know that Mike did not die alone, with no one caring. I cared, we all cared. … we all share your sorrow. Be ever so proud of Mike!” Indeed.
Robert Kinney ’79
In Awe of Rabbi Rachel Isaacs
Yasher coach (job well done) to Rabbi Rachel Isaacs (“Bridge Builder,” Colby, fall 2013). Beth Israel Synagogue and Colby College are so very fortunate. I am in awe of the incredible community she is building, face to face and soul to soul. The spirit and energy she instills is inspiring, and I am heartened that Jewish cultural and religious life is blossoming on and off the Hill!
Rabbi Zachary R. Shapiro ’92
Culver City, Calif.
Ice-Fishing, Tony Marin Style
Regarding the piece about Tony Marin (Editor’s Desk, Colby, fall 2013), teaching at Lawrence High School in Fairfield for 35 years I was fortunate to know many kids from the SAD 49 community, where Tony lived. Tony, as we said, “was a piece of work!”
I went ice-fishing with him on Moosehead Lake with his good friends the Watson family from Clinton more than once. Ice-fishing “Tony style” involved a tent at the fishing site, a propane stove, several dozen eggs, pounds of bacon, two or three tubs of baked beans, a couple of loaves of bread, pots of coffee, fry pans, pots, silverware, and camp stools. There were also sleeping bags and extra clothes, all in addition to what was back at camp.
Unfortunately, Julie and I were away from Maine during Tony’s memorial service at Lorimer Chapel but I’m sure our thoughts were well represented.
Bill Alexander ’62
Genuine and Generous Tony Marin
Thank you kindly for paying tribute to Tony Marin (Editor’s Desk, Colby, fall 2013). I worked in the Eustis Service Center mailroom during my four years as a student, and as such, I came to know many of the figures “behind the scenes” at Colby. Tony Marin was one such figure and my friend. His character was just as described in the editor’s note: genuine and generous.
As soon as Tony learned that I was one of the student managers of Colby’s organic garden on Runnals Hill, he was scurrying around helping fix our spigot and irrigation system. One day he brought his walk-behind rototiller to the garden and instructed my fellow gardeners and me how to wield the machine to break up some particularly troublesome earthy clay.
In the mailroom on doughnut day (every Friday) or around campus, Tony always waved hello and, with that cryptic Tony smile you described, wished me well on my way. Thank you for honoring him in Colby.
Meg Kruithoff ’12
Biddeford Pool, Maine
A Disappointing Essay
I generally enjoy Colby and especially the Last Page articles. The magazine helps me feel a little bit connected to the school, though I have lived on the other side of the country since graduation.
The most recent Last Page, “A Bridge Not Burned,” (Colby, fall 2013) was disappointing. I suspect that many of us did some pretty stupid things back in our Colby days. And then we moved on. It seems that Gerry Hadden ’89 still thinks it’s funny that he and his buddies defaced public property in a foreign country, and even gloats about how they got away with it. His 7- and 9-year old children sat around the lake with them, hearing about the vandalism. Is this a legacy he wants to leave? I am curious about why this got published at all. It’s astonishing that this is the most poignant story Colby could come up with.
Alix Land ’78