I am not old enough to have a clear picture in my mind of what it was like during the Vietnam War. I was 10 or so when it ended so my thoughts were on things other than war.

Sure, I remember the nightly TV news reports about the fighting and, of course, "body counts." And TV images of war protesters in the streets who older Americans collectively called "hippies," whether they actually were hippies, college students or mothers raising their voices against the war in Southeast Asia.

A cousin of mine was wounded twice fighting in Vietnam. Like so many armed forces veterans of that era, it took many years for him to shake the demons born of that experience, if he ever did.

From that time I have smoky wisps of memory that float into my consciousness from time to time, never very clear, but never ever lost, either.

As a college student, I learned more about the Vietnam War and the war protests in this country through books, photos, movies and lectures.

The images from that are more vivid, such as the ones taken 35 years ago today on the campus of Kent State University. Four students - Allison Krause, Jeffrey Glen Miller, Sandra Lee Scheuer, and William Knox Schroeder - were gunned down that day by Ohio National Guardsmen on campus to quell a war protest.

The image of protesters placing flowers into the ends of Guardsmen's rifle barrels are dwarfed by images taken later of a hillside obscured by gunsmoke and tear gas, students racing here and there, and soldiers approaching with rifles at the ready.

One of the most powerful images from that terrible time 35 years ago - and perhaps one of the most powerful images of all of the Vietnam War era - was that of an anguished Mary Ann Vecchio on one knee next to the body of Miller, her arms raised as if to ask how could something like this happen in the United States and on a college campus. Indeed, how?

The Crosby Stills Nash & Young song "Four Dead in Ohio," tells of the deaths.

"Tin soldiers and Nixon's comin'.
"We're finally on our own.
"This summer I hear the drummin'.
"Four dead in Ohio.
"Gotta get down to it.
"Soldiers are gunning us down.
"Should have been done long ago.
"What if you knew her and
"Found her dead on the ground?
"How can you run when you know?"

The lyrics are as haunting today as ever before, sharpening the smoky images of that time and serving as a warning that we should never repeat that tragedy.

The author, the opinion page editor, can be reached at keith@thereporter.com.