The image Americans were asked to believe, at the Democratic National Convention, of a John Kerry who “defended this nation” as a soldier in Vietnam and “will defend this nation” as its commander in chief has hit a snag.
The soldiers he served alongside of don’t really believe that he did defend his country very well. And as one of his former commanding officers told my radio show on Wednesday, Kerry’s chain of command was so fed up with his actions, they asked him to go home after he received his third purple heart.
Retired U.S. Navy officer Thomas Wright served our nation for 21 years. He also served as one of Kerry’s superiors in the tough assignment of SWIFT boat (Shallow Water Inshore Fast Tactical) patrols on the southern tip of Vietnam. Lt. Wright frequently experienced trouble with Kerry.
According to Wright, Kerry frequently broke protocols of engagement for SWIFT boat commanders.
When you’re in a group (of boats on patrol) you don’t open fire unless the person in charge tells you to or unless you are defending yourself from an immediate attack … I’d have problems because we’d be running on a river and Kerry would see something off in the distance and he’d take a pot-shot at it, to see what happened. And that wasn’t the way we were trying to run the patrols.
We were trying to get in and find out what was going on, and hopefully make contact and begin to work with some of the people that lived there … And you don’t get to go shake their hands when you’re shooting at them.
I asked Wright how Kerry would respond to the necessary correction that would follow such unilateral actions.
Well, during the mission you just continue to issue the orders that you expect people to follow and, if they don’t do them, you would continue to press until you got the results that you need.
After a mission, is generally when you work out the more difficult problems. And those are done in private.
I’d go talk to John Kerry and I’d tell him that I was unhappy with his opening fire, or pulling out of a column when he wasn’t supposed to, or failing to communicate when he needed to … And I’d always get an excuse. I wouldn’t get a direct answer.
I’d get “I didn’t hear that,” or “We thought we saw something” or “My radio was on the other side of the boat” or “I didn’t have time.” It was always an excuse. After three or four times … I went to the division commander, told him about the problems I [had] been having and told him [the commander] that he needed to take steps to correct it.
That brought me to the shocker of the interview. To hear John Kerry speak about his time in Vietnam is to hear a self-personified story of heroics. Lt. Wright remembers what happened after Kerry’s third purple heart quite differently.
When he got his third purple heart, that evening, and we didn’t particularly care what it was for, we knew that he had three. That evening, I and two other people went in and told him that we felt that he should go home. It was something that he could do … He told us that he didn’t want that, it was his intention to serve his country, and the next morning he was gone. And we were happy and didn’t worry about it.
John Kerry was barely able to endure four months on SWIFT boat detail. Since I am sure the War on Terror will endure a bit longer than that, the idea of him commanding our troops with his unsteady hand is making me … well … seasick.
Editor’s note: The actual audio of this entire interview can be heard on Kevin McCullough’s website.