John F. Kerry has made a conscious decision to base his 2004 presidential campaign on his war record. (In case you are unaware, the Senator served in the Navy in Vietnam). He commanded a small, brown water vessel called a swift boat. The swifties operated in a riverine environment; typical missions were to escort troops in landing craft, guard larger boats carrying supplies to distant outposts, and route and point reconnaissance.
Kerry was assigned to the swift boats after working offshore on larger ships. When he transferred to the swift boats, they were used to ferry personnel and material from shore- to offshore-vessels. Only after he had transferred to the unit was the swift boat mission changed to combat.
Swift boat crews were vulnerable to ambush from the banks of the rivers. The boats, armed with machine guns and small arms, almost always engaged the enemy from the river. On very rare occasions, the crew might go ashore to police the battlefield. The swift boat mission demanded independent thinking, initiative and courage from the crew.
Young John Kerry spent approximately four months in Vietnam. For purposes of comparison, a normal tour of duty in Vietnam was 12 months. He submitted a request to curtail his tour after incurring his third wound, having thereby received his third Purple Heart medal. Reassignment based on wounds received was not automatic but was at the initiative of each eligible service member.
When Kerry returned to the states, he wore a Silver Star for valor, the three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for service in a combat area. To that point, he is to be thanked for his service to his country. But from then on things went terribly wrong. In a coldly calculated maneuver, Kerry plunged into the most virulent element of the antiwar movement, associated with violent demonstrations.
Even membership in this group, while causing some concern, would not in itself be damning. But Kerry assumed a leadership role. Kerry was not “coincidentally” located near Jane Fonda. He was the lead speaker in events in which she was backup. They planned demonstrations and programs together. They were fellow self-styled revolutionaries.
Kerry flew to Paris to meet with the North Vietnamese representative to the peace negotiations. They met privately for several hours. Their conversation is not public. It is known that afterwards Kerry loudly advocated removal of all U.S. forces from South Vietnam as a way of obtaining release of our POWs held by Hanoi.
He became a core member and leader of the group Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), mostly made up of men who had not only never been to Vietnam and had never served in the military.
(B.G. Burkett in his excellent book Stolen Valor catalogs an extraordinarily vast number of Vietnam wannabes in the VVAW who have sullied the reputation of real veterans. Almost all of them used the war as a way of making money or attaining influence.)
This is where legitimate vets have serious issues with Senator Kerry. As part of his involvement and rise to leadership in the VVAW and with the other antiwar groups such as those including Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda and the rest of the dregs, Kerry turned viciously on his fellow veterans. He testified before Congress, giving lurid tales – all manufactured – of atrocities that were ‘normal’ and ‘known by officials at all levels’ in Vietnam.
Kerry described disgusting things: torture, rape, burnings, dismemberment, violence against civilians and more as if they were common daily fare. In fact he said specifically that these crimes occurred virtually on a 24/7 routine basis with no interference, indeed with encouragement, from higher headquarters.
He went on to describe the Vietnam veteran as someone psychologically damaged by the war. In his words the Vietnam vet was a soldier driven to heavy drug and alcohol use, incapable of readjustment to normal civilian life after have been required to engage in atrocities ‘worse than Genghis Khan.’ One need only look as far as the crowd surrounding Kerry - the scrufty, fatigue-wearing, long hair, strung out misfits - to see how terrible the war was to its poor, innocent soldiers. Except that it was all a lie. Kerry’s testimony and his organization created a myth that persists to this day.
Hollywood, of course, loves the myth: Coming Home, Deerhunter, Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Born of the Forth of July, Rambo, and many more all raged at the war and exploited the myth. Indeed they pushed it so deep into the American conscious that most ordinary citizens cringe at the thought of a Vietnam veteran. They think that the whacked-out, crazy, drug-besotted image is the real one. How tragic for our veterans then and now. And John F. Kerry was and continues to be a major factor in perpetuating this gross lie, this appalling disrespect.
Today the persistence of this anti-veteran image still manifests itself in tragic ways. A terrific young man, Ranger Corporal Pat Tillman, recently gave his life for his country in Afghanistan. Tillman was not unique in his dedication, concern and patriotism: an extraordinary number of young people share that with him. And a majority of those who served in all our previous wars - including Vietnam - were cut from the same special cloth.
What made Tillman unique was that he was a successful professional athlete who turned down a multi-million dollar contract to join the army and fight against those who attacked us. His idea of loyalty was to pay back to his country for all the opportunities it had give him. And he sacrificed all so that we might stay free.
But the repugnant legacy created by John Kerry, the anti-Vietnam war movement leaders and their ilk persists unabated. Tillman has been attacked in the most disgusting manner as a ‘dead dumb jock’ and an ‘idiot who died for oil’ by the vulgar extreme left that Kerry helped create and continues to court for votes and support.
So I don’t care about where or if he tossed his medals or ribbons, or how deep the scratch was that got him a cheap Purple Heart. All those I can forgive. But the legacy of disrespect and contempt that Kerry intentionally produced and deliberately exploits to this day for his political benefit is unforgivable. It is for his post-war behavior that he must answer to his fellow veterans.
We are not your ‘band of brothers,’ Senator. You betrayed us and we want no part of you. You have caused too many people too much pain. Have the decency to leave us alone and stop using your fellow veterans as props to advance your career. For once, act like a man.