BY JACKIE CAMER
Northwood High School teacher Patrick McCann is a Vietnam War veteran and an advocate for peace – which some people may see as a contradiction.
But McCann sees the two as no conflict.
“I went to fight for peace and now I came back to do the same,” said McCann, president of Veterans for Peace, an organization of Military Veterans.
It was 1970, the height of the Vietnam War, and McCann, just shy of his 17th birthday, joined the Air Force.
He had no problem serving.
“I was young, I glorified violence,” he said.
His transformation, however, came after.
“I lived on base, and it was boring in the barracks, so we would go down to the University of Illinois, to have some social life. We saw a protest rally in support of a black boycott of white businesses in Cairo, Illinois. Cairo, Illinois, had issues very similar to Ferguson [Missouri] today, McCann explained.
There he met members of the Black Panther Party, a radical black power organization, and accompanied them to a protest in Chicago commemorating the shooting of two party members, allegedly by the Chicago police. One of the men, Fred Hampton, was shot in his bed while lying alongside his pregnant wife, according to McCann.
McCann said he was outraged by the case.
“I couldn’t be loyal to this government anymore. That’s when I became a fighter for peace, a freedom fighter. The Black Panthers won me over.”
McCann began participating in antiwar activities. When he was notified that he was to be deployed to Vietnam, he refused to go – winning him an undesirable discharge and 30 days in the stockade.
“I don’t regret one second of it,” he said.
In the years since, McCann graduated from the University of Maryland. Currently he serves on the Board of Education for Montgomery County and has been a teacher for 21 years.
“Education is the strongest weapon,” said McCann when trying to teach his students that violence is not the answer. “The key to power is education, and that’s not something Daddy Warbuck’s has learned yet,” a reference made to President Obama supplying guns to the Middle East.