Ted Nation's Story
At the time of the "Woodstock West" encampment I had been a member of the Colorado National Guard for about 4 years having joined after dropping out of Princeton my senior year with the intention of returning to complete my degree after my initial period of active duty. The war was escallated, my training was delayed and it took an additional 11 months to complete. (At the time I remember suffering considerable guilt as I watched some of my friends from training classes shipped off to fight the war). I finished my active duty two years after dropping out with no money saved so I found a job and enrolled in the University of Colorado Denver Center to complete my degree on a part time basis.
To the best of my recollection, the Guard unit I served in was the 140th Signal Corp. Most of my service was uneventful but boring (except for the 65 Denver flood prior to my active duty) but it was an opportunity to form close associations with individuals from all kinds of backgrounds. Several months before the encampment, our unit was put on an extended training schedule with crowd control exercises two weekends per month. One of the key parts of this training was an emphasis on the need to avoid being caught between groups of protestors.
At the time of "Woodstock West" my brother was a graduate student at DU and we had walked through the encampment and visited with the protestors. We didn't regard them to be prone to violence. When my unit was called up I didn't take it particularly seriously. However, when we were assembled in a meeting room the officer in charge decribed a course of action directly controdictory to our "riot" training. We were to unload at DU (I believe at the stadium) and then march single file onto the campus surrounding the encampment but with sympathizers and any possible radical elements, who might have wished to exploit the situation, to our backs. I still wasn't too worried because I knew members of the Guard were in constant communication with friends and family in the encampment and that the protestors would likely be gone when we arrived. Then, right before loading, the officer in charge dropped a bombshell! He told everyone to go by the supply room and pick up one clip of ammunition! I immediately jumped up very unmilitarily and yelled, "What!" Either then or on the truck I also insisted that only a few responsible individuals be issued live ammunition. By then I had been pigeon-holed as a trouble maker. When we unloaded at DU and began to surround the encampment, I was first told to stay behind with the trucks. Later, one of the platoon sargents signalled for me to join his column and we proceeded to deploy as planned. As expected, almost everyone had left the encampment so we faced the surrounding crowd. And, yes, some of them did put flowers in gun barrels!
Everything ended peacefully but I remain convinced that the leaders of the protest and their sympathizers in the Guard deserve the credit for this. The authorities had created a situation that one spark could have set off resulting in another Kent State. Sometime latter I wrote a letter to the Denver Post or Rocky Mountain News or both making this point. It was published by one of them but in a much shortened version.