Sunday, August 22, 2004

A Veteran For Truth

Letters to the editor - The Telluride Daily Planet

A veteran for truth

Dear Editor,

This letter is in response to the new attacks on John Kerry's war record by a group calling itself the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." As for most veterans of any war and as people who know me will testify, it is not easy for me to talk about my experiences in Vietnam. However, because of these new ads and, I understand, a new book recently published by an old Charles Colson "Enemies List" hit man, I feel compelled to speak out. Unfortunately, the veterans featured in these attacks are being used by extreme right wing Bush supporters to spread their lies and malign John Kerry.

I feel that most of these veterans who are joining this attack are against Kerry for what he did after he was home from the war than for what he did in the war. If they are against him for his stance against the Vietnam War, that certainly is their right, but to spread lies and malicious innuendos about his time on the rivers of Vietnam is not morally right and does a disservice not only to Kerry, but to all those who served and were wounded or died in that war. The people who are using these veterans for their own means obviously do not care about that. They did the same thing to Senator John McCain and Congressman Max Cleland in 2000 with no remorse or care for the consequences.

To me what is worse is that by their silence, the current administration has not, with any real meaning, disavowed itself or distanced itself in anyway from any of these scurrilous attacks, past or present. I feel that this truly shows the Bush administration for what they really are and ultimately, who is truly responsible for these attacks.

Since I happened to be along on one of the "excursions" where the boats that we were on were attacked and after which Lt. Kerry was cited for valor, I thought it appropriate to give my recollection of that event. This happened on March 13, 1969. I was assigned as Psychological Operation Officer for the Swift Boat group out of An Thoi, Vietnam, from January 1969 to October 1969. As such, I was on No. 43 boat, skippered by Don Droz who was later that year killed by enemy fire. We were second in line while exiting the river and going through the opening in a fish trap when a mine blew up under the No. 3 boat directly in front of us and we started taking small arms fire from the beach. Almost immediately, another mine went off somewhere behind us. All boats, except the one hit, immediately wheeled toward the beach that most of the fire came from (a tactic devised by Lt. Kerry, I later learned) and commenced showering the beaches with so much lead, that it could probably be now mined there. The noise was of course, deafening.

Three things that are forever pictured in my mind since that day over 30 years ago are: (1) The No. 3, 50-foot long, Swift boat getting huge, huge air; John Kerry thought it was about two feet. (He was farther away from it than I). I think it was at least four feet and probably closer to six feet; (2) All the boats turning left and letting loose at the same time like a deadly, choreographed dance and; (3) A few minutes later, John Kerry bending over his boat picking up one of the rangers that we were ferrying from out of the water. All the time we were taking small arms fire from the beach; although because of our fusillade into the jungle, I don't think it was very accurate, thank God. Anyone who doesn't think that we were being fired upon must have been on a different river.

The picture I have in my mind of Kerry bending over from his boat picking some hapless guy out of the river while all hell was breaking loose around us, is a picture based on fact and it cannot be disputed or changed. It's a piece of history drawn in my mind that cannot be redrawn. Sorry, "Swift Boats Veterans for the Truth"- that is the truth.

To say that John Kerry or any of us were on that river to intentionally collect Purple Hearts really does every soldier and sailor, past and present, a disservice. We were going up those rivers (with an ongoing casualty rate of 86 percent at the time) on the orders of the same people who approved of Kerry's medals and who are now joining in the attacks against Kerry. Unbelievable.

I would hope that the American public sees these evil extreme right wing attacks for what they really are and also pray that the veterans being used by these unpatriotic right wing extremist political operatives will divorce themselves immediately from them and speak to the real issues as to why they oppose John Kerry. I just don't understand how anyone can align themselves with those who intentionally and gleefully painted a decorated triple amputee (Max Cleland) from Vietnam as unpatriotic. I think that this is the most disastrous, un-American thing that can be done to our servicemen and women, especially now with another unending war going on. Your ends cannot possibly justify these means. Come on!

Jim Russell

Vietnam veteran, USN (1966-71)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sen. Jack Wagner, the Democratic candidate for Auditor General of Pennsylvania ( and a combat Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, appeared today with Sen. Kerry's swiftboat crewmate Del Sandusky and other veterans in Harrisburg to denounce the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" smear campaign. He also issued the following press release when the ads first began airing.


Saddened, outraged, and offended by smear campaign, says fellow Vietnam War veteran

PITTSBURGH, PA (August 6, 2004) – State Senator Jack Wagner, a decorated U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran of the Vietnam War, today released the following statement in response to the anti-Kerry television commercials released yesterday by the so-called “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” 527 committee:

“As a veteran, I am saddened by this attack on the record of a distinguished serviceman. We all proudly wore the uniform of our country in wartime, and those of us who were lucky enough to return home alive came back to a deeply divided nation. It is disgraceful for veterans to re-open the wounds of Vietnam by attacking one of our own. John Kerry served honorably in Vietnam and should be respected by his fellow veterans and all Americans for his service.

“As an American, I am outraged that Republicans would bankroll an unaccountable front group to throw mud at an American veteran. This is exactly the kind of negative campaigning that has turned off so many from voting and participating in the electoral process. Especially at a time when our country is engaged in a worldwide fight for freedom, we should be strengthening our democracy, not tearing it down.

“I am deeply offended by this false and shameful attack. When others sought to avoid serving their country, John Kerry volunteered for service in Vietnam. He earned a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts for his leadership, courage, and sacrifice in battle.

“We all heard former Special Forces officer Jim Rassmann speak movingly last week about how John Kerry risked his own life to pull Rassmann from the water after Rassmann was knocked from the deck of their patrol boat during an ambush on March 13, 1969. That is the kind of unselfish act that we should all be proud of. It is telling that Senator Kerry’s crew has stood in support of his military service.

“I join Senator John McCain, himself a victim of a similar smear campaign four years ago, in condemning these ads. I call on the committee to discontinue the ads, on all Americans to reject them, and on the Republican Party to repudiate them immediately.

“At a time when American men and women in uniform are in harm’s way in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the globe, we should put partisanship aside and respect the service of our military personnel and our veterans, including Senator John Kerry.”


1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like President Bush did condemn the ads. It is time for candidate Kerry to do likewise, condemn, Michael Moore, Wesley Clarke and all the rest. He could release his records and clear up all these service issues while he is at it. I'm concerned, he appears to be acting like a little girl and Bush has taken the initiative by continuing his condemnation of 527s.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Pamela Leavey said...

Apparantly republicans have an aversion to reading Kerry Military records which have been posted on his website for months -

Where oh where are W's military records?

6:49 PM  
Blogger AFINLORD said...

Kerry? Maybe...

6:56 PM  
Blogger Ron Chusid said...

Kerry's records were released months ago. Where are Bush's?

There is no comparison between the Swift Boat Liars ads and those listed in the above comment. The Swift Boat Liars ads (which were not really repudiated by Bush) contradict all available evidence, including the testimony of eye witnesses and the military record. The ads are also in violation of FEC rules due to the coordination between Bush and the Swift Boat Liars.

Critics of Bush (and even of Kerry) have the right to speak out and express their views. The dishonesty in the Swift Boat Liars ads puts them beyond normal political discourse.

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please clear up this for me, I keep seeing non-answers from both sides on issues like Kerry's and Bush's Military records.

Did Kerry really get a Purple Heart from a small metal splinter,
about like a thorn stick? I understand this splinter was not
removed by him, but instead "carefully nursed" so that it would not fall out, as he could not get official recognition from a doctor until visiting one the next day.

The point is, I'm not debating whether that is a valid for getting a Purple Heart - just being there (Vietnam combat) is
something that I respect. But in all the hoopla about this, I never hear if this point was true or not: Did Kerry really nurse a tiny metal splinter, and submit that for a Purple heart as is claimed??

Granted there are a LOT of view points here, but I get the impression this answer is being evaded like wildfire. Are Kerry's Medical records avaulable to check this out?

I can't just write off these Swift Boat Vets comments, regardless of what their political views are. Too many good people died in Vietnam. I respect the fact that they ALL served there (including Kerry, regardless of the answer).
But I still want to know if the Purple Heart story is true, or not. I heard the Doc on the radio, I heard the Democratic Party Spokeperson imply the doctor was not there, but failed to answer the important question - was it true?

Thx all,

10:04 AM  

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