Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace
Author Biographies (alphabetical order - click on letter)
DOWNLOAD AUTHORS' BIOS (Click to download pdf file)
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | U | W | Y | Z
MICHAEL L. WONG
I once was a first lieutenant in high school Army ROTC who believed fervently in the Army and our government leaders. Then came the real Army. My story, “Honor’s Death,” tells of my Army experience and why I turned against the Viet Nam war and deserted to Canada. The next story, “To Take a Street,” tells of one small protest.
What these stories don’t tell you is that in Toronto, Canada, I was a member of a hippie counterculture community known as Rochdale College. An Internet search will produce over 800 entries about this experiment that happened in an eighteen-story apartment building. I wrote in Maxine Hong Kingston’s Fifth Book of Peace: “We were a world unto ourselves, with our own government, a free medical clinic, a movie theater, a library, a health food restaurant, a store, a dance studio, and a host of other features of a community. We even had our own hippie ‘police force,’ Rochdale Security ... ”
A war of attrition by the Canadian government and police against Rochdale formed for me a counterpoint to the war in Viet Nam. The war hawks lost the war to control South Viet Nam. We hippies lost the war to save Rochdale College. I deserted the U.S. Army, only to serve on Rochdale Security. I never faced the guns of the Viet Cong, but I faced—unarmed—the guns of the Toronto Police Department. My closest comrade, Cindy Lei, was one of those who died for Rochdale. I was never the same.
There is, however, also healing. During a protest against the first Gulf War, I met a group of Viet Nam veterans who welcomed me home with open arms. I have been a member of Veterans for Peace and the Veterans Writing Group ever since. Together, we continue to heal. The journey never ends, but friends make all the difference. To all who have helped me along the way, thank you, thank you, thank you. Peace be with you.
Born in New Jersey and raised in western Pennsylvania, I joined the Army through ROTC at Princeton in 1965. I took a few years at Oxford and then served as a junior officer with MACV at Chau Doc in the Delta of Vietnam from June 1969 to June 1970. My brother had been a Marine in I Corps the previous year.
I have been teaching at the University of Texas since 1973. I have written plays, opera libretti, poetry, and short fiction, as well as a number of translations and scholarly works. My novella set in Vietnam won an Austin Book Award, and my play on returning veterans won a B. Iden Payne Award for best new play of 1983 in Austin. A play I wrote at Oxford was produced as a radio play by the BBC in 1968. I have written philosophical works on reverence and democracy, and I am currently writing a book called The Necessity of Theater.
I began writing poetry about my Vietnam experience during Operation Desert Storm. In 2002, I revisited Vietnam and found the tall pagoda described in “Sanctuary.” It was built as a prayer for peace, and it still stands, although in need of restoration. Like most veterans, I found that Vietnam cut across past relationships like a fire. Hence “Walking Across a Burnt Field, I Feel a Puff of Ashes Up My Jeans.” Luckily, however, Lucia and I renewed our relationship and married in 1973. We have two daughters and one granddaughter.