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The wound that made John Kerry eligible for the first of three Purple Hearts was not severe enough to warrant consideration, according to the physician who treated him in December 1968.

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John Kerry receving medal for Vietnam service.

Louis Letson, now a retired general practitioner in Alabama, said he has “a very clear memory of an incident which occurred while I was the Medical Officer at Naval Support Facility, Cam Ranh Bay,” according to National Review Online White House correspondent Byron York.

Kerry’s Purple Heart and the two others he won later allowed him, under Navy regulations, to request and receive leave for the United States after just four months of his 12-month tour of duty.

Letson, according to NRO, says he remembers his brief encounter with Kerry 35 years ago because “some of his crewmen related that Lt. Kerry had told them that he would be the next JFK from Massachusetts.”

Yesterday, a group of 18 veterans who served with Kerry in Vietnam held a press conference in which they described him as a self-serving, “loose cannon” who needed constant supervision and came only to launch a political career.

The physician, who says he has no contacts with the Bush campaign or the Republican party, wrote down his recollections in response to questions from his friends.

Letson wrote that on the night of Dec. 2, 1968, Kerry “was on patrol north of Cam Ranh, up near Nha Trang area. The next day he came to sick bay, the medical facility, for treatment of a wound that had occurred that night.”

The physician continued:

The story he told was different from what his crewmen had to say about that night. According to Kerry, they had been engaged in a fire fight, receiving small arms fire from on shore. He said that his injury resulted from this enemy action.

Some of his crew confided that they did not receive any fire from shore, but that Kerry had fired a mortar round at close range to some rocks on shore. The crewman thought that the injury was caused by a fragment ricocheting from that mortar round when it struck the rocks.

That seemed to fit the injury which I treated.

What I saw was a small piece of metal sticking very superficially in the skin of Kerry’s arm. The metal fragment measured about 1 cm. in length and was about 2 or 3 mm in diameter. It certainly did not look like a round from a rifle.

I simply removed the piece of metal by lifting it out of the skin with forceps. I doubt that it penetrated more than 3 or 4 mm. It did not require probing to find it, did not require any anesthesia to remove it, and did not require any sutures to close the wound.

The wound was covered with a bandaid.

Not [sic] other injuries were reported and I do not recall that there was any reported damage to the boat.

Related story:

Kerry ‘loose cannon’ says ex-commander

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