Vietnam Veterans Offended by Students in Rambo Dress
Students at the Mohawk Trail Regional High School in Buckland, Mass., just wanted to "dress weird" when they planned "Rambo Day" as part of a weeklong celebration to boost school spirit.
"This was a very innocent thing as far as the kids are concerned," said Bruce E. Willard, superintendent of the school district. "In no way did they mean to offend any individual or any group."
But the school's day of dressing like Rambo, the machine-gun-toting Green Beret portrayed by Sylvester Stallone in the movies First Blood and Rambo: First Blood Part II, did offend some.
In fact, S. Brian Willson, president of the Vietnam Veterans Peace Education Network in Greenfield, Mass., called the event "sick."
"This glorification of the immune killer, of America the bully who can go and kill anything, becomes self-fulfilling prophecy," Mr. Willson said last week.
On "Rambo Day," Oct. 2, members of the veterans' group distributed to students and teachers copies of a letter they had written to Mr. Stallone criticizing the movie and the Rambo character.
"Many of our brothers went to their graves because they believed wars were fought the way John Wayne portrayed them in his movies," the letter states.
The group asked Mr. Stallone in its letter whether he was "prepared to accept the responsibility for the deaths that may occur in future wars as a result of the youth who believed you."
Only about 30 of the high school's 800 students donned jungle camouflage on Oct. 2 and, according to Mr. Willard, "Rambo Day" was other8wise without incident.
Jen Pepyne, president of the school's student government, said the students decided on "Rambo Day" for the celebration because of the character's appearance, "not the attitude."
Mr. Willson, who was an intelligence officer in Vietnam, said that since "Rambo Day" he has been asked to speak at the high school by a teacher and a member of the Mohawk Trails school committee who had suggested the students cancel "Rambo Day" in favor of "Gandhi Day."
"I would have loved a 'Rambo Day' when I was in high school," Mr. Willson admitted.
"I was this way when I was a kid and I can relate to it," he said, "but I sure don't want kids to learn about war the way that I had to learn."