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Jun-14-2011 10:43printcomments

Peace Activist Brian Willson Launches Book Tour with 24 June Kick-off in Portland

His message: "We are not worth more, they are not worth less."

S. Brian Willson is a prominent Viet Nam veteran turned peace activist and Portland resident.
S. Brian Willson is a prominent Viet Nam veteran turned peace activist and Portland resident.

(PORTLAND, Ore.) - S. Brian Willson, a prominent Viet Nam veteran turned peace activist and Portland resident, celebrates the publication of his new memoir, Blood on the Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson (PM Press, 2011), on Friday, June 24 with a book launch at People's Food Co-op in Portland. The book talk and signing begins at 7:00 p.m.

Willson, who lost both legs below the knee in 1987 when he was intentionally run over by a US Navy munitions train at the Concord, California Naval Weapons Station, plans a cycling book tour from Portland to San Francisco on his three-wheeled, hand-powered recumbent. Willson notes, "Every rotation of my handcycle’s twenty-inch wheel carries me six feet. After 800 miles I will have participated in over 700,000 revolutions, one after another, modeling personal transportation that does not require fossil fuels."

Willson kicks off his cycling book tour from PSU at 8 am on Saturday morning, June 25, and is scheduled to speak at his first stop in Newberg that afternoon. He will be celebrating his seventieth birthday on July 4 in his former hometown, Arcata, in northern California, and arriving in San Francisco on July 16.

In his book, Brian Willson describes the wartime experiences that transformed him into a nonviolent pacifist. He tells of his participation in a prominent 1986 veterans fast on the steps of the US Capitol in Washington, DC—a response to funding of Reagan's Contra wars in Central America. One year later, on September 1, 1987, he was again thrust into the public eye when he was run over and nearly killed by an accelerating US Navy train while engaging in a well publicized, nonviolent blockade in protest of weapons shipments to El Salvador. "My own government labeled me a terrorist and attempted to murder me," says Willson. "My story is strongly relevant for domestic activists today in this climate of an unending 'war on terror.'"

After losing his legs, Willson continued his efforts to educate the public about the true nature of US imperialism while striving to "walk his talk" (on two prosthetic legs) by striving toward "right livelihood." Among many extraordinary experiences, Blood on the Tracks describes Willson’s meetings with FMLN guerrillas in El Salvador, Portland’s Ben Linder in Nicaragua three weeks before his murder by Reagan’s Contra terrorists, doctors at bombed hospitals in Iraq, and with Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide before he was deposed with complicity of the CIA.

Unique among memoirs penned by Viet Nam veterans, Willson's book goes well beyond relating the story of his wartime experiences, focusing in large part on his search for a radically different paradigm as a result of the consciousness provoked by that war and other life experiences. In his introduction to the book, Daniel Ellsberg, of Pentagon Papers fame, writes: "No reader, I believe, will finish this book without a sense of awe at the human spirit that is revealed in it and of gratitude for the map that Brian Willson has provided, in his life and this account of it, of the way out."

Blood on the Tracks contains a large number of photographs chronicling Willson's transformation from small-town boy to high-profile activist. It has already captured the attention of many internationally renowned figures, including Noam Chomsky, Cynthia McKinney, Ed Asner and Kris Kristofferson. Media critic Norman Solomon says, "Brian Willson’s memoir boils with alchemy that has turned pain and caring into moral insistence and political resistance."

 For more information about Brian Willson's book and upcoming cycling tour, visit his book tour blog at, or look for his Blood on the Tracks book page on Facebook and book and author pages at


Friday, June 24 at 7:00 p.m.
People's Food Co-op Community Room
3029 SE 21st Avenue, Portland
Wheelchair accessible
Saturday, June 25 at 8:00 a.m.
PSU South Park Blocks behind Lincoln Hall
between SW Mill and SW Market

NEWBERG BOOK READING & SIGNING Saturday, June 25 at 2:00 p.m.
Community Meeting Room
Open Bible Christian School
1605 N. College Avenue. Newberg, Oregon
Contact: Bruce Freeman 503-538-7084For additional Tour Dates, see:

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