Musing with Cecil Buffington

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April, 3, 2010

Could I have pulled that trigger ?

It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years. May 4, 1970. The day that Ohio national guard troops opened fire on a group of student war protesters at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.

This action impacted me as it would result in my activation for 10 days to serve during the Augusta riots. These riots resulted from the Kent state action. They occurred in many major cities throughout the United States to protest the "Kent State Massacre".

There were already four deaths resulting from police action when the Georgia guard was called up and sent into Augusta. I rode with Augusta policemen for much of my on-duty time and served as a facility guard at several high looting scenes in the Augusta area. I was witness to an Augusta policemen shooting a looter as he pointed what was determined later to be a loaded rifle at him. There was a great deal of rock throwing, paper bags filled with human fecal material, and sniper fire during these 10 long days.

I had joined the Georgia National Guard headquartered in Gainesville in March of 1966. I received my training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. I had been activated on one other occasion before the Augusta riots.

I had served two days during the Martin Luther King funeral in April of 1968. I had patrolled Vine City in Atlanta for those two days. I had endured curses and other indignities as I went about my assignment. It was just a part of the job when you served in the guard in the late 60s and early 70s.

The Kent State situation resulted in four college students being killed by national guard fire and nine others receiving serious wounds. There were contradictory claims of sniper fire igniting the open-fire order and just an over-reaction by the nervous, under intense pressure guardsmen. None of the guardsmen were ever convicted of a crime or served any type of incarceration for their participation in the Kent State shooting incident.

I have often wondered what I might have done under the same circumstances. Our weapons were loaded during the Augusta riots and King funeral activations. Governor Lester Maddox had made it clear that he did not want one guardsman to refrain from doing whatever they had to do to protect themselves.

Could I have opened fire on defenseless civilians, college students or just another human being. I think if I had felt threatened with a loss of life, I would have been able to pull that trigger. I do not believe I would have ever fired into a group on unarmed civilians or students if I was 100% sure they were unarmed. Order or no order.

Now it’s 40 years later. We see demonstrations throughout America. These demonstrations range from the new Tea Party extremism, old time left and right wing extremism to Hispanic and liberal America indignation over an Arizona law designed to enforce already existing American laws.

The country is suffering unrest at one of the highest levels of my lifetime. The only difference from 1970 is that many of our national guard citizen/soldiers are now in foreign countries putting their life on the line for mainstream America instead of being on ready reserve for national and domestic emergencies.

It appears that with all the changes of the last 40 years, not much has really changed other than that we get to watch all this craziness as it is happening on television every night. America needs a lot of prayer. It is in dire straits and is like a rudderless ship at this point in our history.

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