By: Deni Leonard
Getting to the Shelter Half Coffee House
The Shelter Half Coffee House was located in Tacoma, Washington and was a primary establishment to support the Vietnam Anti-War supporters and to initiate activities to promote the close of the War in Vietnam. The Shelter Half was located near Fort Lewis, Washington, which is the U.S. Army where I was stationed. It became a mainstay for me as the staff and guest worked collectively to end the Vietnam war and they were comprised of civilians and members of the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Lewis and McCord Air Force base.
- I was drafted into the U.S. Army from my college in San Bernardino, California in 1968 and subsequently did my boot camp at Fort Ord, California and basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington. I was selected to go to Vietnam to fight against the North Vietnamese and was ordered to fly out of the U.S. Army Oakland base to Vietnam. I went AWOL(absent without leave) and fled the base and spent time avoiding the federal policing agencies.
- During my AWOL, I stayed and worked in the San Francisco bay area at a commercial store and when the Military caught up with me, the Store owner called me to tell me that the military police were on their way to arrest me and asked to come down to talk to him. He gave me the cash that was in the register and told me to take off before they arrived.
- On my travels to avoid the military police, I went to stay with college friends at San Jose state, motels along the California coast and eventually, my family told me the FBI was inquiring about my location.
- I decided to travel back to San Francisco and meet with the television producer that did a one hour documentary on me while I was in Madras High School in Oregon. She was now a television producer in San Francisco. We met in her TV studio offices and I drafted a letter to President Richard Nixon regarding my opposition to the Vietnam war as a political statement. It was not a national security risk for the country, it was against people of color and my Treaty included language which stated that Tribal people were to no longer use firearms. The TV producer put me up at a local motel and agreed that we would meet the following morning and would give myself up at the Presidio and they would film my walk into the Presidio to the first Military Police Station. We walked in and they were asking me questions about my opposition and when we reached the MP station, the arrested me and placed me into custody.
O They had a hidden microphone on me and listened as the MPs verbally attacked me. The TV producer came back into the MP station and asked if she could have back her microphone and that she had recorded all of the conversation and that if any harm came to me she would disclose the content to military officials.
O MPs placed me into a holding cell on the base to await legal action by the local commander.
- I was transferred to the stockade as an AWOL and remained there awaiting court martial.
O Knowledge that I was a Vietnam Anti-war protestor spread throughout the stockade and the guards would beat me with knife sticks that had rubber covering the outside. They would take me out of my bunk at 4-5 AM and take me to the cellar area and attach me to the cell bars with an inch off the flour and beat me in body areas that would not be visible when I was dressed for work.
O I was locked up and Anti-War protests took place outside the gates of the Presidio and my attorney was the National Chairman of the Lawyers Guild and the protestors were shouting to have me released. The stockade military personnel put me in the top cell during the protests and feed me with guards surrounding that cell.
O I was court martialed at the Presidio and the Judge asked me if I would rather be designated as a Conscientious Objector rather than take the political opposition as my defense. I told the military judge that I was politically opposed to the Vietnam War as it was illegal and my killing people of color was unethical and my Tribal Treaty forbid the use of military action with firearms. I said that I planned to protest the war fully during my duration in the US Army and please give me the strongest sentence which is under his authority. He sentenced me to seven months in the stockade and I served all the sentenced time.
O I received a response from my letter to President Nixon and it was delivered to me in the stockade. The Stockade Commander called out a full dress of prisoners and brought the letter to me and asked me to inspect it regarding any evidence of attempts to open it. I took some time to inspect it and announced that it was not opened to the best of my knowledge. It was from a General in the White House who said that he was investigating my allegations and someone would get back to me with answers. I gave the letter to my attorney.
O While imprisoned at the Presidio stockade I noticed that there was severe violence against individual prisoners and that food was being stolen and we prisoners were becoming vegetarian as no meat was available. On one occasion Major Williams entered the stockade cell area and witnessed me knocked down a flight of stairs and landing at his feet. He interviewed me and I let him know that the stockade was committing illegal violent acts against the prisoners and stealing nutrient foods from the pantry. He created a full investigation and interviewed all the prisoners and verified the allegations and the stockade was closed permanently based on that report.
O I was subsequently transferred to the main base and was put in the basement of a barrack with other prisoners, two of whom were from American Indian Tribes.
O My work detail at the stockade was to chop wood for the General’s large houses and now I was attached to the Sixth Army Commanding General office and worked for his executive secretary as an assistant.
O President Nixon was meeting with Korean President Park at the Presidio main parade grounds and I was asked to attend that activity. He had bugles sounding as both Presidents emerged from their cars and walked down a red carpeted path to a podium to give their respective speeches. I was told to stand in a blue rugged area and I was with the commanding generals of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines. My grade at the time was the lowest in the U.S. Military hierarchy, Private E-2. President Nixon talked with me and asked me not to protest the Vietnam War and an offer could be made to me to become a commissioned officer immediately. I told him the offer could be accepted if he would alternatively immediately end the Vietnam War. He said that was not possible. As it turned out, one of his closed advisors was an American Indian, Mr. Wallace Newman, a member of the La Jolla Tribe in California and became one of President Nixon’s closet friends, and was probably instrumental in the meeting with President Nixon and Private Leonard.
O While working at the Sixth Army Headquarters, I handled printing which stated on the cover, ‘For Eyes Only’. This, it turns out meant, that the printer was not allowed to view the content and was to just print the material. Knowing this, I wrote an Anti-War newsletter which I had printed by the army printer as an eyes only product and my friends from the Berkeley Barb distributed the newsletter around the Presidio army base.
O I was ordered to Fort Lewis, Washington after serving my sentence as that was the main discharge base for returning Vietnam soldiers and it was thought that they would teach me a lesson.
- Fort Lewis Station Activities and Arriving at Shelter Half Coffee House
- Upon weekend leave, traveled to Tacoma, Washington to a local coffee house to hear a Native American speaker, Ms. Janet McCloud(member of Tulalip/Nisqually Tribes). She suggested I visit the Shelter Half coffee house in Tacoma and meet the staff as they were working on Vietnam Anti-war activities.
- I went to the Shelter Half coffee house and met with the Vietnam anti-war staff and they taught me protest organizing in the Seattle/Tacoma area.
- Organized an American Indian enlisted US Army Anti-War group who were called ‘Hate Ra Snel’ (sp) and they worked on assisting the protest movement as some of them had returned from Vietnam and had experiences that evidenced genocide and ethnic cleansing.
- Janet McCloud introduced me to Mr. Bernie Whitebear(member of Colville Tribe), a former Airborne Army soldier and he was a local social activist and was working on developing a new Tribal Urban Organization and facility.
- Organized protests against Fort Lewis and Fort Lawton in Seattle, Washington with Bernie Whitebear.
- Advised Fort Lewis soldiers on the illegal Vietnam War and answered questions regarding some of their legal and social problems in the military and discussed the Uniform Code of Military Law and their rights.
o Hispanic group of soldiers took me to a wooded area where they threatened me with a knife to my neck and told me to stop all anti-war activities or else.
o A group of Black soldiers took me out of the barracks at nights and made threats and suggested that I stop all anti-war protests
o Bullets were shot through the window of my car when visiting Ms. Janet McCloud while organizing with the American Indian enlisted Vietnam War protestors group.
- Hospitalized at Madigan military hospital after passing out from exhaustion while working on advising enlisted men on Fort Lewis base. Was getting 2-3 hour sleep each night.
- Thomas Banyacya(Hopi Traditional Messenger) and Janet McCloud visited me and I woke up to their prayers.
- I recalled the vision to Thomas Banyacya and he stated that when I was at the river of blood and heard the cry for help and I went toward the voice, that was me deciding not to die and that I would go on to work with the Tribal people.
- Thomas Banyacya stated that he saw clouds pointing to the Northwest up near Janet McCloud and that he should travel there to help.
- The US Military attempted to court martial me while I was still in bed but the doctors would not allow them for my health was weak.
- S. Army Court Martialed Me at Fort Lewis
O I was charged with keeping soldiers from performing their duties and for not doing my military duty
O Mr. Homer Settler (Yakama Tribal Member), Ms. Janet McCloud, Mr. Thomas Banyacya, my seattle attorney and a 2nd Lt. military attorney defended me. Mr. Banyacya performed a purification ceremony in the court room before the session started and the judge inquired about the Traditional ceremony and Mr. Settler explained that it was to purify the court before the proceedings began, but, that there probably was not sufficient corn meal in the Medicine Bag to do the job.
O I lost the case and was fined what amounted to five cent and the case was dismissed.
- Cultural and Spiritual Advisor for Trials Required as stated in an affidavit by me
O When advised that I was indicted and would have a military trial I requested that it required that my cultural and religious rights were being discriminated and I would have to have my cultural advisor, Mr. Settler and Spiritual advisor, Mr. Banyacya to assist me in the trial.
O Mr. Homer Settler would teach me about Indigenous Tribal organic and spiritual ways of the Tribes and the present day oppressive laws negatively affecting them. He stated that problems in life are initiated by the person and should be acknowledged and, from there, will come strength sufficient to overcome them and lead to a solution. Find the original cause of a problem as the first energy of life and solutions for the many illegal man-made laws will emerge. Fasting and Traditional Natural Organic practices must be initiated to filter the negative and predatory educational information out of the Indigenous person. While he visited with Ms. Janet McCloud, he requested that I travel to her house after each day at Fort Lewis to begin a teaching session with him and he would need at least three hours a day for such work.
O US Army Fort Lewis Commanding General ordered a Chinook helicopter to fly me to the Yakama Indian Reservation which was near the Yakima Military Firing Range. The military helicopter arrived in Yakima and there two jeeps awaiting my arrival and they transported me to the Yakama Indian Reservation to pick up Mr. Homer Settler and he returned with me to Fort Lewis.
O While on the helicopter returning to Fort Lewis, Mr. Homer Settler wore a very bright Green Sweater, the pilot gave us a tour of Mount Rainer, and Ms. Janet McCloud picked him up at the base helipad to drive him to her house. That evening, I traveled there to begin outlining my legal defense case.
- Organized Various Anti-War Protest Against Fort Lewis
O A major protest was against the military and closed I-5 freeway and approximately 50,000 people closed the gates into the military base.
O I spoke to the protestors from the military side of the base as I was held by orders not to leave the base.
O We used the telephones to call all the telephone numbers on the base to close communications within the base boundaries.
O Jane Fonda and Mark Lane walked the Fort Lewis base to talk to soldiers to discuss the Vietnam Anti-War reality and the MP’s escorted them off the base lands.
O The commanding general at Fort Lewis met with me to show pictures of me at the protest and to warn me not to get involved while I was on military duty.
- Fort Lewis Commanding General Held Me Under House Arrest
O I was placed into a small room in my barracks that had a small mattress and blanket.
O A 24 hour armed guard stood within five feet of me just outside the door of the room.
O Food was brought into my room and I was not allowed to leave.
O German Shepard dogs patrolled the barracks around the room where I was detained.
O Thomas Banyacya and Janet McCloud visited me and did some prayers for my safety. They asked the guard why so many people were watching me when I was probably the smallest person in the barrack. They met me as my Cultural and Spiritual advisors.
- Elected National Chairman of the G.I. Alliance in Atlanta, Georgia
O I was asked to attend a national meeting in Atlanta, Georgia which would result in an election of a new G.I. Alliance National Chairman.
O I agreed to participate in the election and my major opponent was one of the Chicago 7, Mr. Renne Davis.
O During the election I pointed out an individual who had a cigarette lighter but was not always smoking and it was because he was taking pictures of everyone with a camera in the lighter.
O I won the election and returned to Fort Lewis as I was still an enlisted soldier.
O Upon returning to Fort Lewis, the Commanding General asked for a meeting in which he showed me pictures of me at SeaTac Airport, on the airplane, in Atlanta and on the plane returning. He again warned me about participating in any anti-war activities while I was an enlisted soldier.
- Invasion of Fort Lawton in Seattle by Mr. Bernie Whitebear
O Bernie Whitebear organized an illegal invasion of Fort Lawton in which the American Indian people scaled a small trail up the cliffs of the western part of the Fort to set up a Tribal camp with fires and when the military held revelry, they found 400 Indians camped on their parade grounds.
O Janet McCloud had invited me to a Tobacco Tribal Traditional Spiritual Ceremony at her house in Yelm, Washington and I was driven there on weekend morning. After the ceremony I was asked to attend invading Fort Lawton and I accepted.
O Jane Fonda, Mark Lane and others drove onto the Fort Lawton base and were surround by MPs. Jane Fonda went away from our vehicle to divert the MPs away from the enlisted military soldiers, myself included, and we ran to the entry to the base and jumped over the barriers and were safely off the base. It was illegal for an enlisted military person to occupy another military base.
O Upon arrival back to Fort Lewis, the Commanding General had me brought to his office to show me pictures of me jumping over the barriers at Fort Lawton and told me that the action was illegal. He said that there would be no more warnings.
- Shelter Half Coffee House Anti-War Activities
O Many of the above activities were planned at the Shelter Half Coffee House with Ms. Janet McCloud, Mr. Thomas Banyacya, Mr. Mark Lane, and other anti-war organizers.
O I spoke at many Anti-War Rallies in the Pacific Northwest and around the country and they were planned from the Shelter Half Coffee House.
O I spoke at Anti-War Rallies with Angela Davis, the head of the Black Panthers and other Anti-War activists.
- Discharged From U.S. Army at Fort Lewis Court Martial
O U.S. Army Military Police picked me up from my barrack at 1 AM and put me in a military car.
O They drove me to a Military Court building where three colonels were convening a court martial of me.
O I was assigned a 2nd Lt. military attorney to represent me at the court martial.
O Witnesses brought forward were soldiers who were commanding me from boot camp at Fort Ord to the Fort Lewis personnel. They all testified that I was a trouble maker in each of my stations throughout my military service.
- I went AWOL in Boot Camp and spent the final weekend in San Francisco
- I protested the Indian war pictures on the walls at Fort Lewis Basic Training
- I went AWOL at Oakland Army base
- I was court martialed at San Francisco Presidio for refusing to go to Vietnam
- I was court martialed at Fort Lewis for poor performance as soldier
- I attended and spoke at many Anti-War protests throughout the United States
- I persuaded enlisted US Army soldiers to become anti-war resisters
O My attorney asked each witness if there are any redeeming qualities to my performance as a soldier and they all answered that there were none.
O My testimony consisted of protecting my constitutional rights to not incriminate myself and refused to answer any questions from their attorneys.
O This late night Army Military Court found me guilty and ordered that I be immediately discharged with an undesirable discharge.
O Fort Lewis had the largest Vietnam discharge center and the Court closed it down to insure that no one saw me being processed out of the US Army.
O The Sargent Major of the US Army guided me through each part of US Army discharge stages in which he stated the reason for each document.
O I refused to sign any of the discharge documents and the US Sargent Major signed as each document was presented to me, Sargent Major signing for Private Leonard.
O They handed me a check for somewhere in the neighborhood of $125.00 as my last pay check.
O The Military Police, four of them, drove me to the eastern gate of Fort Lewis, because it is completely isolated, and read me a document which stated that I could no longer work for the US government and they threw my duffle bag from the car trunk to the ground and drove back on to the base.
O At daybreak, I hitchhiked to a restaurant and called Ms. Janet McCloud and she drove me to her place. That night a major explosion cut all power to the Fort Lewis base and she said that was the sign to them of my departure.
- After the Shelter Half Work
- After having lunch at Ms. Janet McCloud house I sat on the steps and wrote a plan for the next twenty years of my life and they included the following:
- Getting an education and studying education
- Getting business education and studying business
- Getting government education and studying government
- Getting international relations education and studying international relations
O I traveled back to my reservation in Oregon and went to work for my Tribe, Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation as the Director of the History and Curriculum Development Department.
O Ms. Jane Fonda contacted me at the reservation and asked me to testify at the Winter Soldier Investigation on Violence in the US military while I was incarcerated at the San Francisco Presidio Stockade. I met Mr. Dave Dellinger, another of the Chicago 7 protestor group, and we remained friends for many years after the event.
O While working on my Tribes educational programs I met one of the staff of the Shelter Half Coffee House in Portland, Oregon while working with professors at Portland State University.
O Senator Mark Hatfield, who, when governor of Oregon, invited me to speak at events around the state with him, called me after two years out of the military and told me he could assist me in changing my discharge from Undesirable Discharge to Honorable and I replied, ‘I earned that Discharge and I am keeping it’.