Sunday, May 04, 2008
On the first weekend in May, 1970, Dean Kahler, a freshman at Kent State University in Ohio and a member of the Church of the Brethren, was at home when student demonstrations protesting the US invasion of Cambodia broke out on the campus. On the following Monday, May 4, while on his way to class, he was seriously injured as soldiers of the Ohio National Guard opened fire when they feared the student process would become violent. Four students were killed. Dean dropped to the ground but was struck by a bullet, and he lost the use of his legs. He nearly died.
The Center congregation, of which the Kahlers were members, and Brethren all over northern Ohio were supportive in the difficult months that followed. Because of the national publicity given the incident, Kahler received many "hate" letters accusing him of being a Communist radical. Influenced by his Brethren background, he had earlier decided to be a conscientious objector and he was opposed to the war in Indochina, but he had not been involved in the protest movement on the campus.
As a paraplegic, Kahler learned to play wheelchair basketball and eventually returned to his classes at Kent State, where he received his BS degree in 1977. Kahler told an interviewer in 1975: We were taught as Brethren to love everybody; even those who smite you, or your enemies. I just try to keep remembering that all the time. Speaking at a memorial service at Kent State, he said, Non-violence is the only way.