Vietnam matters!

By Jane Chastain

Many say what happened in the lives of Bush and Kerry during the Vietnam era is not important. It’s time to move on.

Not so fast! What happened is important for one big reason: Truthfulness with a capital “T.” It rhymes with “see” and it gives us a glimpse into the character of each man.

Both Bush and Kerry were born into privilege. Bush, by his own admission, got off to a shaky start. He drank and partied too much, but managed to get through Yale. He then seized an opportunity to enlist in Texas Air National Guard. The move kept him out of the war.

Make no mistake. Flying fighter jets is not for the faint of heart! Even under the best of conditions, there are fatal accidents. Furthermore, this commitment required 53 weeks of full-time, intense flight training with Air Force units, which began in November of 1968 and ended in December of 1969.

Much has been made about the fact that in 1972, Bush changed his reserve duty base to Montgomery, Ala., so he could work on the U.S. Senate campaign of Winston “Red” Blount. When Democrats questioned whether Bush had shown up, the White House and Pentagon released all available military records. Bush missed some drills in 1972 and early 1973, but was allowed to make up the time later that year.

Bush ended his six-year National Guard service seven months early, as the war was winding down, to ender Harvard Business School. In 1969, Kerry was allowed to leave the Navy – in the middle of the war – six months early so he could run for public office. However, what most people do not know is that Kerry, like Bush, was a reluctant warrior.

Kerry did not jump at the chance to enlist in the Navy after graduating from Yale, where his anti-war sentiments were well known. Instead, he petitioned the draft board for permission to study in Paris. When denied, in 1966, he reluctantly joined the Naval Reserves – not active-duty Navy. At the time, the Navy was considered one of the best options for avoiding combat since the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong had no battleships, submarines or aircraft carriers.

Kerry boasts that he signed up for two tours of duty in Vietnam. However, the first was on a guided-missile frigate, the Gridley, which, during the year Kerry was aboard, spent a mere five weeks off the cost of Vietnam, miles from any “action.”

When Kerry signed up to command a swiftboat, they, too, were operating out of harm’s way, inspecting offshore traffic. Their mission changed shortly after Kerry was reassigned, and many of Kerry’s fellow officers say he strenuously objected when ordered into danger.

There are far more serious discrepancies in the Kerry record, which is challenged by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whose membership includes all of Lt. Kerry’s former commanding officers.

  • Was his first Purple Heart, awarded for an injury received on Dec. 2, 1968, the result of a self-inflicted grenade wound?

  • His former commanding officers all say they refused to sign off on his request for this award. Who signed the form?

  • Was the Purple Heart Kerry was awarded for an injury received on Feb. 20, 1969, also the result of a self-inflicted grenade wound? The officer on the accompanying boat saw and reported no hostile fire.

  • Was the Purple Heart Kerry received for an injury on March 13, 1969, the result of still another self-inflicted wound from a grenade Kerry exploded into a stock of rice, not the result of shrapnel from an underwater mine?

  • Were Kerry’s Bronze Star and Silver Star awards based on his own inflated reports of valor and not supported by the facts?

  • How is it that Kerry’s campaign website includes a Silver Star with a Combat V on his DD214 form which summarizes a serviceman’s career? The Navy has never issued a Combat V with this award.

  • Why are there three different citations for Kerry’s Silver Star?

In addition to these problems, it now appears that Kerry lied about:

  • Spending Christmas, 1968, in Cambodia.

  • About personal knowledge of war atrocities.

  • About throwing away his war medals.

  • About attending a 1971 meeting of Vietnam Veterans Against the War where the assassination of U.S. senators was discussed.

While Bush may have been given “special” treatment to accommodate his schedule, so was Kerry. Also, if just one of Kerry’s Purple Hearts was self-inflicted, he owes the Navy another eight months in a swiftboat.

If we cannot trust Mr. Kerry to tell the truth about his military record, how can he possibility be trusted to be its commander in chief?