Kerry's war record - bravery or braggadocio?
I don't like re-living the Vietnam era. Even though I never served in Vietnam (I spent six years in the US Navy, all on the Atlantic side), I lost friends over there. I stood in front of my cousin, Donald's, coffin just three days before I reported for duty. I've had to deal with the emotional trauma of being treated like a cancer because I was a Vietnam-era vet, and I've had to re-live the pain of losing people I loved every time Vietnam is brought up again. Unfortunately, John Kerry has chosen to make his Vietnam service the centerpiece of his campaign, aggravating old wounds that have never healed.
So I decided to find out what really happened during Kerry's tour.
I've been doing a lot of research into Kerry's tour in Vietnam. I"ve learned a number of things. I've learned that there are men who served with him who think very highly of him and there are men who served with him who dislike him intensely. I've learned that there were men who thought his actions were extremely courageous. Del Sandusky calls him "hard charging" and his commanding officer thought he might be too "aggressive". Other men thought his actions were reckless and "out of control" and put his men in danger.
Some veterans think his anti-war activities were a slap in the face to all veterans. (I'm one of those. I've never forgiven him or Jane Fonda for what they did. And I'm angry at Kerry for bringing up old wounds that still fester by making his short tour in Vietnam the centerpiece of his campaign.) Others are thankful that he had the courage to speak out about Vietnam because they believe they fought in an unnecessary and unwinnable war and that the government lied to them.
What cannot be argued is that Kerry went in harm's way, fought the enemy and was wounded in battle. Some think his medals were undeserved. I think some of this can be attributed to the fog of war. For example, there are differing accounts about whether or not they faced enemy fire on the 13th of March, 1968, when Kerry helped Jim Rassmann out of the water after he'd fallen overboard. (There's even disagreement about which boat Rassman was on.)
There are legitimate arguments about how honorably Kerry served and whether or not he deserved all the medals that he got. But Kerry, like many young men of my generation, faced enemy fire on numerous occasions, and he didn't shirk his duty, he stood and fought. For that he is to be commended, as is every other brave American that served in Vietnam.
For this reason, I am all the more baffled as to why Kerry feels the need to lie about his service.
The facts are these.
He has lied about his first Purple Heart. It was fraudulently obtained.
He's lied about David Alston serving under his command. Alston was severely injured on Jan 29, 1968 in a fierce battle that also injured his OinC, Tedd Peck. Both men were medivaced to the hospital ship and never returned to duty. (And Alston has lied about being there when Kerry won the Silver Star. He was injured on 1/29/69 and replaced by Fred Short the day Kerry took command of PCF-94.)
He's lied about his third Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. There was only one mine. It went off under PCF-3, not under Kerry's boat, PCF-94. Kerry's boat was to the starboard, and after the mine went off, Kerry was thrown against the bulkhead when his boat accelerated out of the area and received a contusion (that's a bruise for you laymen) of his right arm. Contusions do not qualify for a Purple Heart.
He's lied about when he took command of PCF-94 and therefore taken credit for action that he never participated in. (I find it implausible to believe that he would not remember what boats he served on and when he commanded them.)
He lied about the shrapnel in his "ass". That was received earlier in the day when he threw a grenade into a pile of rice, not during the mine incident.
He embellished the story that won him the Silver Star. The basic details are true, but at various times he has described running ashore while "gunfire was blazing" to take out the teenage enemy with a B-40 rocket. (Fred Short was quoted as saying "bullets were flying everywhere".) His Silver Star citation, for example, states "after the enemy had been completely routed", yet there was one teenage VC running away from them, and Kerry shot him in the back. (Mind you, I see nothing wrong with shooting a fleeing, armed enemy in the back. You either kill him then or he returns to kill you later.)
He's told fantastic stories of carrying out "secret missions", ferrying CIA agents into Cambodia when the last thing you'd want to use on a covert mission is a 50 foot aluminum boat with two noisy 12V71 GM diesel engines that "sounded like a damn Greyhound bus".
Some have argued that he really didn't want to see combat and when he volunteered for Swift boat duty he thought it would be relatively safe coastal patrols with little chance of engaging in battle. I don't know many men that wanted to be shot at. (There's a few, trust me. I think they're crazy.) Most of us wanted to serve our country, but we sure didn't want to face enemy fire if we didn't have to.
Swift boat duty was the most dangerous duty you could have in the Navy. The casualty rate was extremely high (75% according to Admiral Zumwalt), and many brave men died or were horribly injured. Kerry served in that theatre. So why??? does Kerry feel the need to embellish his record? Isn't what he really did good enough? My god! There are very few who can claim to have served in a theatre were they faced enemy fire almost every day, several times each day while sitting in a thin-skinned aluminum tin can exposed to ambushes from both banks of the river or canal they were in.
When I think about what the Swiftees did and what they endured, I cry. They were my brothers, even though I never served in Vietnam, I feel a special bond with them. They're some of the bravest men the Navy has ever had.
Why isn't that good enough for Kerry?