Once again he reports for duty

By WND Staff

He came to the podium, gave a military salute, and said, “I’m John Kerry, and I’m reporting for duty.”

Somehow, I heard the voice of Gomer Pyle, admonishing, “Shame, shame, shame.”

I wonder how many Vietnam vets clutched their chests at that moment, fearing that the old ticker had stopped, that this was the “big one,” and that the last face they would see would be the turncoat from Massachusetts.

John Kerry – the man who would be president. Commander in chief. Leader of the free world. Defender of America from the savages who would kill us.

John Kerry – the man who served four months in Vietnam, then scurried home and stabbed every man and woman who served there in the back.

John Kerry – war hero – who hardly brings up his service at all more than once every three minutes.

As a young man he showed so much promise. In four months in Vietnam he got five medals – one every 25 days – three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star. It must be some kind of record.

Back in the states, Kerry took up a career in showbiz with all the depth and honesty of an Oliver Stone or Michael Moore flick. He pretended to throw his medals away, or his ribbons, or somebody else’s medals. The story has gone through a few rewrites. The point is he got his picture taken and testified before Congress, and a star was born.

A week after Kerry’s salute at the Democratic convention, Vietnam vets launched an offensive against the man. They made a commercial. They have a book: Unfit for Command. They hold press conferences that the press ignores. The vets say Kerry’s war record is a sham. They say he made it up or exaggerated it. One guy in the commercial treated the wound for Kerry’s first Purple Heart.

Kerry’s people say the vets are Republican stooges, but we know what Kerry thinks about vets and the military, don’t we? We know it not from what he says on the stump, but from what he has done for 35 years.

Vets aren’t stooges for anybody, Republican or Democrat. If there was a non-socialist American patriot in this presidential race, I suspect neither of these parties would stand a chance for the vet vote.

Vietnam has haunted this country for 40 years. We failed there. The president. The Congress. The media. The citizenry. We all were shamed. Then, instead of facing the truth, we blamed our military for our failure, when all they did was the job we asked.

We were just about to get over Vietnam, then along comes Kerry, and he makes a big deal about it. He talks of his service, waves the flag, swells up and salutes in his civilian clothes. It seems the pompous posing of a bad actor, perhaps because he is the only hero I have ever observed to brag about anything at all.

I’ve talked to men who’ve done things, amazing and terrible things, but I had to feed them a few Beams to get them going, and it wasn’t easy even then. It’s like a descent into hell. They start reluctantly, speaking so quietly you must lean forward to hear. They tell the easy stories first, then go into darker and darker places. They begin to sweat. They look at the floor, the wall, their drink, then they look in your face, their eyes full of pain and pleading, as they fight their grief. They know you can never understand. It’s hard to be a hero.

With John Kerry, the war experience pours forth with the passionless ease of a campaign slogan. It rings with the emptiness of practiced platitudes. He remains silent about his anti-war years. He appears a sad man, dogged by some unspoken remorse. I think it is this: Honor and perhaps truth itself have become casualties of his ambition.

Maybe when the election is over he can put in for a final Purple Heart.

Phil Lucas is executive editor of the Panama City News Herald in Florida