Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Wounded Veteran Goes Extra Mile For Kerry

One of the greatest gifts of working on the Kerry campaign over the past year and half was meeting fellow volunteers from across the country. A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of meeting a fellow Kerry Blogger, Bob Evans, who lives in my area. Right after meeting Bob for the first time, he headed off to Ohio to volunteer for the last few weeks before the election. Here's a great story about Bob, from a Massachusetts newspaper:

Wounded veteran goes extra mile for Kerry
By JACK SPILLANE, Standard-Times staff writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Kerry campaign did not arrange for Bob Evans to come work for them in Ohio.

The Vietnam veteran from Southern California did it on his own.

Thirty-four years after half his face was blown off in Vietnam, Mr. Evans drove from his home in Palmdale, Calif., to the state Democratic headquarters in Columbus.

"I told them I'd do anything, stamp envelopes, whatever," he said.

Mr. Evans said he has followed John Kerry's career since the early days and always knew he would work for the Massachusetts senator if he ever ran for president. His Vietnam experiences have made him skeptical of most wars, he said.

He spent a year and a half in the hospital after his face was torn apart, and he had a breakdown from post-traumatic stress syndrome 16 years later.

For the longest time, he said, he convinced himself that the war was right, that America had no choice but to stop "communists" from taking over Third World countries.

"It's difficult to accept that it was wrong when you've lost friends, and when you've injured yourself seriously, it's hard to accept that that was for nothing," he said.

Eventually, it all came apart as he encountered flashbacks from Vietnam and struggled to come to terms with guilt over the death in the field of an Officers Training School buddy he could not save.

"Survivor's guilt. Why should I live and he die?" he said. "I felt like I should have been able to save him. I know he would have been there for me."

Mr. Evans's friend's name was Joe Rufty.

"He's on Panel 14 West, Line 80," he said, referring to the Vietnam Wall memorial in Washington.

Bob Evans says he is particularly offended that President Bush, a member of his own generation, supported the war in Vietnam but managed to avoid service in it by winning one of the rare available spots in the National Guard.

Far from being offended by CBS News anchor Dan Rather's lack of documentation on his story about President Bush receiving favoritism while in the Guard, he wrote him a letter of congratulations.

"President Bush has led a life of privilege, 'entitled' to live above the rules , while a lot of the friends I had never had a chance to live at all," he wrote.

Mr. Evans said his life after Vietnam was marked by anger he did not understand.

"I had this anger inside me, a kind of rage about what happened. It took me many years before I realized I felt used, abused, lied to, exploited by my country," he said.

But he remembered when Sen. Kerry and his comrades threw their medals on the Capitol steps and he wished he could have been there with him. Sen. Kerry also lost a close friend in Vietnam.

What bothered him most, he said, were soldiers who were sent to die after it was clear America was going to pull out of Vietnam.

"I know that if our country had listened to John Kerry when he was trying to stop that war, we'd have 14,000 fewer names on the wall," he said.

This story appeared on Page A2 of The Standard-Times on October 30, 2004.


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