When I was attending the UDT/SEAL Reunion this past weekend, I had occasion to speak with some of the "old guys" there who had fought in Vietnam. While I was trying to get some details on Swift boat/SEAL operations, I ran across some remarkable stories from some of these men. I met one man who had served 7 tours in Vietnam (SEAL tours were 6 months long, but very intense). He told me about one of his Bronze Stars and I could tell that this man was being forthright, by the effect of the story on his countenance as he told it.
His squad had just conducted a VC prisoner snatch and were boarding a helo in a small clearing under intense enemy fire. He said that they were basically surrounded. The pilot said that he could not lift off with all of the occupants aboard from such a tight Landing Zone (LZ). This man just decided in an instant that he had to get off the helo so that the prisoners would be taken for interrogation. He and 3 other SEALs jumped out of the helo, and it lifted off. He told me that the first thought that occurred to him at the time was, "Well, that was stupid, now I'm going to die." He and his comrades returned fire, while he prayed to his "Foxhole God". Moments later, a dark cloud descended on the LZ dumping rain and obscuring visibility. A few minutes later, a helo that had heard of their situation from the other helo landed in the midst of the fog not 10 yards from where they lay. Once aboard, and out of danger, the helo ran out of fuel and crash landed 8 miles away from where the battle took place.
By the end of this telling, the man was on the verge of tears, and visibly shaking. I put my arm around him and thanked him for sharing such a personal story with me. But he wasn't done. He then told me about coming home from one of his tours and being greeted with scorn and disdain. The man's own father was a war protester, and when he returned home, his father told him he did not want anything to do with a baby killer. Where do you think he got that idea?
John Kerry left his comrades in Vietnam 8 months early only to come home, tout himself as a war hero, call his "brothers" war criminals, and used the notoriety he gained as a launchpad for his political aspirations. I can tell you that this man I met at the Reunion did not want these memories to be dredged up again. He went to Vietnam because he wanted to defend America and serve as a Navy SEAL. He retired from the Navy in the 1980's and went on with his life with many proud memories, and many terrible and horrifying ones as well.
Real Heroes don't take advantage of their exploits for purposes of personal gain. They take the lessons of their service and the character developed under fire and use those experiences to be successful in life. I am not a combat veteran, but as a Navy SEAL myself, I have seen people who have hyped there experience as a frogman to make money or gain personally. Of course, that pales in comparison, but it is frustrating nonetheless.
John Kerry joined the Navy not to serve in combat in Vietnam, but to avoid exactly that. If he wanted combat, he would not have requested deferment, or he would have become a SEAL like Bob Kerrey or a pilot like John McCain. Kerry has also admitted that at the time he volunteered for Swift boat duty, the PCFs were not in combat and had no plans to become engaged. To ask his CO for a Purple Heart for what amounts to a self-inflicted, minor wound is an incredible act of either hubris or cowardice. By asking for the PH for an action occurring in the presence of a senior training officer Lt. Schacte, clearly indicates that Kerry had no regard for how his comrades felt about him. His only concern was getting out of there as quickly as possible.
Consider the idea that you were hired as a construction worker and while you were being trained by a supervisor, you hit your thumb with a hammer. Then you went to the general contractor and asked to get a worker's comp disability claim based on a minor injury occurring on your first day of work. You would probably get it, because in PC America the threat of lawsuits is very real. But your coworkers would know that you are gaming the system, and a supervisor present during the injury is not going to stick up for you since he barely knows your name.
To add insult to injury, literally, Kerry then actually made home movies in order to document his service for posterity. Why? Does he break out the old movies when his old buddies come to Boston on business trips? No. He breaks em out for the Democratic National Convention and political ad campaigns. I don't know if he deserved his awards for valor, but I do know that officers are routinely more highly decorated than enlisted men even to this day in the Navy. But this does not matter in the context of this campaign for President.
Making a big production of your heroism in war is a very unnatural thing to do. Bob Kerrey was a Congressional Medal of Honor winning Navy SEAL whose leg was blown off below the knee in Vietnam! I don't remember him prattling on about it in 1992. John McCain and Bob Dole were both grievously wounded in combat and acknowledged by many to have been very heroic as well. They ran on their achievements in elected office, not their war service.
John Kerry seems to me to be an opportunistic guy who felt that having used his service and his opposition in Vietnam successfully to catapult him into elected office, decided that he had basically done enough to get himself elected President when the time was right. He rested on his laurels and the considerable laurels of two wealthy women, and cruised for the last 20 years, enjoying the fruits of his position while avoiding its labors.
Well, I don't think that is going to cut in the United States. I think that the American people intuitively know that, and John Kerry is going to find it out in November.