By Bruce R. Posten
When William J. Vitale entered Penn State University in 1965 to study
architecture, he considered joining the ROTC to help pay for college.
He didn't qualify then because of a heavy course load, but in five
years his political beliefs had changed so dramatically that he
wouldn't have wanted to be in the military program.
By his senior year, in 1969, he had become a Vietnam War protester at
a Washington teach-in.
A peace activist, Vitale was convinced that his country was on the
wrong path, immersed in an interventionist war that was needlessly
costing American lives and treasure.
But the 61-year-old Reading architect's opinions were not formed just
His father, Samuel, who died of stomach cancer the same day Sen.
Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, had served in the Army
during World War II and fought in Italy, where he met Vitale's mother, Amelia.
Amelia lived in the German-occupied town of Caiazzo, which saw heavy
bombing during the war.
"My mother was an influence on me, because she lived through that war
and saw the loss of a lot of innocent life," Vitale said.
"Unlike World War II, where our country was fighting against horrible
aggression, Vietnam had its roots as a colonial war. We were not the
white hats; we had no business being there."
Vitale registered as a conscientious objector with the draft and was
approved for that classification in the spring of 1970.
Vitale said that if he had been denied conscientious objector
classification, he and his girlfriend and future wife, Rosemary E.
Frank-Vitale, were prepared to go to Canada.
"I felt so deeply and strongly that there was no way I was going into
the military to fight that war," he said.
Vitale fulfilled his alternative service requirement working as a
psychiatric aide at Wernersville State Hospital from 1970-73.
The Vietnam War ended in the 1970s, but Vitale's commitment to the
world peace movement continues.
Vitale is involved with the Berks Peace Community, actively
protesting the U.S. military presence in Iraq.
Fundamentally, Vitale believes war is not the best answer to
international disputes and that a quest for peace and justice are two
sides of an equation that are closely knitted together.
"There is an interconnectedness in life in that whatever we do in one
place has an impact on another," he said. "What we spend on weapons
and war always takes away from education, health, housing, mass
transit and creating livable, sustainable communities here on Earth."
Contact Bruce R. Posten: 610-371-5059 or email@example.com.