My friends can hardly believe it when I tell them that I spent ten years in a Vietnam veterans biker gang. My friends know that I got a head injury while I was in Vietnam, and I can't keep my ballance on a bicycle, let alone a massive Harley Hog. I ended up being one of the guys with some of the toughest men I've ever met.
The mid-nineties was the time when Vietnam vets stopped being called "Baby killers," and started receiving some of the respect they deserved for going through hell for a cause they didn't believe had any merit. I was visiting veterans groups taking portraits of these men and their families and fellow veterans. I was directed to go to this particular group of veterans because everyone I talked to said that these men were the meanest mothers in the whole war.
At first, the bikers were suspicious of my motives, and only a few were willing to pose. Every week I came to a meeting with prints from the weeks before. Sone the other vets were posing for a picture to send to their Mothers, or a buddy from their unit in the jungle hell of Vietnam.
One week I arrived with my camera lights and backround. The vets had a superise for me.. It was a black jacket with a map of Vietnam on it. Only members were allowed to wear the. I had finally been accepted.
Over the next ten years, I covered the good times and the bad. Every month, one of the vets would hand me an envelope with some cash in it. They wanted to help me with expenses.
When I first started with the vets they wereb all angry and withdrawn. As the public changed their minds about Vietnam veteran, the vets started coming out of their shells. People shook their hands and thanked them for their sacrifice. A few stayed angry. This"ground pounder spent a lot of time in the jungle. His angry outbursts werealways the same. " I lost my friends" He would shout."What were we fighting for? NOTHING!
The group broke up after ten years. The members were dying of diseases of the elderly. Men and women in their mid forties were gone too quickly.
I ran into a member on the street last year. He told me that including the two of us, there were five members still alive out of one hundred.
Tags: Photo journalism
Specialist and abstract
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