Woody Powell: Korean War Veteran for Peace

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Woody Powell, a Korean war veteran, 1950 to 1954, was born in Cambridge, MA on June 24, 1932. Raised in Ohio and California. Used the GI Bill to become formally educated at University of California, Berkeley and University of Connecticut, Storrs. Pursued careers in publishing, construction and steel industry sales, and hazardous materials management. Founder of the Gateway Society of Hazardous Materials Managers, the largest chapter of the Academy of Hazardous Materials Managers, a certifying professional organization. 

Throught the years his peace actions have included:

  • A Veteran For Peace since the Gulf War. 
  • Human rights observer in Chiapas and Oaxaca in 1998. 
  • Delegate for the Colombia Support Network to the Magdalena Medio region of Colombia in 2000. 
  • Ten-time participant in School of the Americas demonstrations. Have honor of being banned from Ft. Benning. 
  • Executive Director, Veterans For Peace, 2001-2005. 
  • Member Korea Truth Commission. 
  • Writer/poet -- Co-Author of book: Two Walk the Golden Road with Zhou Ming-fu; the lives of two Korean War vets from two different cultures who come to the same conclusions about the waste and uselessness of war. -
  • Visited previously unknown civilian massacre site in Korea and apologized to its sole survivor. First Korean Conflict veteran to ever visit the site in fifty years. 
  • Guest lecturer at Webster University, St. Louis, University Of Missouri, Columbia, in their Foreign Studies and Peace programs.



From a distance, 
on the deep worn trail, 
sun-baked and 
thick-tongued with thirst, 
I saw you by the waters, 
in deep, protective shade.

Some of you were drinking, 
soaking tired bones, 
restoring energy.

Others, bellies full, 
sat as if reflecting deeply, 
on the journey behind 
and the journey ahead.

Then I heard your voices, 
eager in fellowship 
rising, falling, 
in cadenced, civil tones, 
easy on ears still ringing 
with the stridency of war. 
I wanted to be with you.

So I came closer 
and you saw me, drew me in, 
embraced me with your talk 
that sounded so much like 
the thoughts locked in my head.

As I drank the cool waters 
I heard stories; 
how the soft bodies of our youth 
were battered on the anvils of war 
into mindless engines of survival; 
how hardness became refuge from guilt, 
how despair fed rage, 
how rage fed depression 
how I came to be so alone 
in the midst of so many    
when I came home 
and they made me a hero.

But then I saw you smiling, 
and aloud I wondered why;

"First," you said, "There are no heroes here." 
-- and I felt the first knot go. 
Then you told me, 
"Don't bother going home. 
It isn't there any more."

I cried for that, 
but you were right 
and you helped me build 
a new home, 
from the supple strength 
of a new understanding 
of all I had feared and hated.

you handed me a kit of tools; 
knowledge, insight, hope, 
patient persistence - and 
faith in the goodness remaining 
at the core of our lives.

With these, you said 
I could re-build a neighborhood, 
if I wanted, 
perhaps renew a world,

-- now that I am not alone.

Woody Powell, 8/19/07 
Veterans For Peace


The Man in the Uniform

I saw a man, in a uniform
worn like skin, molded
trim and significant 
with colored patches,
bits of brass, chevrons, bars
an accounting, I thought, 
of courage and skill, 
a story of to hell and back
silently spoken
into my cradle of uncertainty
bending me like a green stick
toward the siren song of
Duty, Honor, Country;
talismanic words
the common shield
behind which I marched
with others
into the mystery of war.

I am a man
without a uniform
without significance
without a shield
and all too aware
of what I might have been:

A spirit lost
drained away 
into the pores of the earth;

A spirit shattered
all there
but re-assembled badly;

A spirit draped
in the crimson robe of shame
endlessly asking, “How could I have?”

A spirit swollen, diseased,
infected by Colt, Browning and Boeing,
with the awesome power of death;

A spirit offended
looking for someone to blame;

Or, as it was,
a spirit confused, 
looking for shelter
in a job, a family, a bottle 
or just a space where I need not think. 

WMP – 3/23/2006