College of Liberal Arts

Beyond the Battlefield: The War Rages on, but This Time It’s Personal

Fri, Nov 9, 2018
Glenn Towery. Photo by Raul Buitrago.
Glenn Towery. Photo by Raul Buitrago.

The Thorazine haze was beginning to fade when Glenn Towery was discharged from Oakland Naval Hospital. For the last however-many days he had felt listless, “like a non-human being,” making him forget why he was even there in the first place.

Before that, he occupied a hospital cot in the Philippines, next to an injured Marine who was asking about the weeping sores that covered his face and hands. “Where’d you get those Willie Peter burns?” he said — a question that burns into Towery’s memory.

He had been serving on the gunline in Vietnam as a quartermaster for the United States Navy — a ranking many on the ship did not take a liking to given it was 1972 and most other African Americans were low-rank deckhands. In fact, it was the first time Towery had been back on the ship since filing a complaint for the unjust discrimination and harassment he’d experienced.

He’d seen it all: racist graffiti drawn in sharpie all over his workstation; anger from other blacks who seemed less than impressed by his higher rank; an attack from behind that left him beaten, bruised, unconscious and alone.

“When you’re on a small ship, that becomes your world; and if your world is not a world where you feel welcome, it begins to play on you here,” Towery says, pointing to his head.

Watch the video below and read more at Life & Letters online.

Bookmark and Share