April 19, 2004


John Kerry's War (Steve Hayes, April 17, 2004, Washington Post)

I knew John Kerry. We served together in late 1968 and early '69 as Navy Swift Boat officers-in-charge in Coastal Division 14 in Cam Ranh Bay and in Coastal Division 11 in An Thoi, Vietnam.

I didn't know him well. I found him a bit aloof and imperious. After a 24-hour patrol, most of us would kick back, get a cold beer, talk or sleep. After a 24-hour patrol, I remember Kerry would usually be in the squadron office writing. I never knew exactly what he was working on. Notes? Letters? His war diary? But always he was writing.

His service along the coast and in the rivers was commendable. But there was always something a bit odd about his time with us.

Kerry served approximately 41/2 months "in country" -- a little more than one-third the normal 12-month tour. Within a 90-day period, he received three injuries that resulted in Purple Heart awards. All three wounds were minor. Tedd Peck, one of our Coastal Division 14 fellow officers, says that Kerry pressured our squadron executive officer to "put him in" for his first Purple Heart after the squadron commander indicated he thought the injury was so minor it didn't rise to the level of an award.

Finally, Lt. j.g. Kerry could have remained in Vietnam with the rest of us, but he made a formal request to be reassigned to the States, as three Purple Hearts entitled him to do. I remember colleagues leaving Vietnam early . . . in body bags. I remember some being medevaced back home because of serious wounds. I recall no one, except Kerry, asking that his tour be cut short and that he be sent home.

All this has always seemed just a little strange to me. But no more strange than the son of a Texas congressman jumping over several hundred other folks to gain admission to the Texas National Guard, then not showing up -- or at least not having any record of attendance -- at many of the mandatory drills. But then the late '60s and early '70s were strange times.

Most Vietnam veterans I know who oppose Kerry are not irate over what he did or did not do in Vietnam but over what he did after returning. His mistake was in blurring the line between protesting the war and our foreign policy on the one hand and, on the other hand, tarnishing the reputations of good men who did what their country asked them to do.

This seems to be a consensus most Americans can settle on. His service in Vietnam was honorable. His performance on his return stateside was despicable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 19, 2004 8:02 PM

I like the way he repeats the distortions about Bush's record. Is there ever a case where a lefty can criticize one of their own without the "yes, but..." of trying to downplay some wrongdoing by implying the other side is just as bad, if not worse?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 19, 2004 9:57 PM

Is this the same Hayes who writes for Weekly Standard? If so it is weird that, as Raoul notes, he drops in the anti-Bush lines.

Posted by: AWW at April 19, 2004 11:11 PM

I think the jury's still out on his Nam service. The Viet Nam vets have really yet to be heard from ... but I'm sure they will be as we close on November.

Posted by: genecis at April 20, 2004 12:10 PM

I'm sure they're different writers. The Standard guy is Steven Hayes, who I'm certain was too young to have served. Besides, have you ever heard of a Weekly Standard staffer who served in Vietnam (or any other war, for that matter)?

Posted by: Nicholas Stix at April 21, 2004 1:33 AM