Saturday, August 21, 2004

An injury to one...

...is an injury to all, and when the Swift Boat Liars for Bush slander John Kerry's service in Vietnam, they slander legions of us who also served. When they question the process that awarded Kerry's three Purple Hearts, they question the process that awarded my brother his. When they put a cloud of doubt around the record of anyone's service, they put a cloud around everyone's. And they do it for the basest, most selfish, most egregious reasons. They do it without evidence and without regard for the pain inflicted by reopening old wounds in the minds of our fellow veterans.

It's a sin.

That's what inspired former Swift Boat skipper William Rood to break decades of silence in a Chicago Tribune op-ed today. (Emphasis all mine, as usual)
...Kerry's critics, armed with stories I know to be untrue, have charged that the accounts of what happened were overblown. The critics have taken pains to say they're not trying to cast doubts on the merit of what others did, but their version of events has splashed doubt on all of us. It's gotten harder and harder for those of us who were there to listen to accounts we know to be untrue, especially when they come from people who were not there.

****

Even though Kerry's own crew members have backed him, the attacks have continued, and in recent days Kerry has called me and others who were with him in those days, asking that we go public with our accounts.

I can't pretend those calls had no effect on me, but that is not why I am writing this. What matters most to me is that this is hurting crewmen who are not public figures and who deserved to be honored for what they did. My intent is to tell the story here and to never again talk publicly about it.

****

But I know that what some people are saying now is wrong. While they mean to hurt Kerry, what they're saying impugns others who are not in the public eye.

Men like Larry Lee, who was on our bow with an M-60 machine gun as we charged the riverbank, Kenneth Martin, who was in the .50-caliber gun tub atop our boat, and Benjamin Cueva, our engineman, who was at our aft gun mount suppressing the fire from the opposite bank.

Wayne Langhoffer and the other crewmen on Droz's boat went through even worse on April 12, 1969, when they saw Droz killed in a brutal ambush that left PCF-43 an abandoned pile of wreckage on the banks of the Duong Keo River. That was just a few months after the birth of his only child, Tracy.
They're hurting real people, with real lives, by their spiteful lies. People like Lee and Martin and Langhoffer. People like me. People like Del Sandusky.
Although the 15 veterans featured in the attack ad all state "I served with John Kerry," none of them served on the same boat with him. Those who did, such as retired Chief Petty Officer Del Sandusky, 60, of Clearwater, Fla., praise Kerry for his leadership and credit him with keeping them alive to make it home.

"We are really upset at this stuff," Sandusky told Knight Ridder. "They are calling us all liars. They dishonor us and they dishonor all those who died over there. They are getting awfully desperate. Last year many of them were on board with us. Now they are telling outrageous lies."
What's interesting is that once again, the attacks on Vietnam veterans are coming from the right wing. I know there's a lot of popular mythology about rejection by the anti-war movement when we came home - legends of airport spitting incidents and cries of 'baby killer' - but my experience was always exactly the opposite. It was the anti-war movement that placed emphasis on blaming those who walked the corridors of power for the war and supporting the mostly working class kids who got sucked into doing the bidding of the power brokers. It was the right wing that branded us a bunch of dope smoking losers whose benefits could be safely cut, whose injuries could be safely dismissed. And it's happening again.

And it's even worse the second time around.

It's a sin.

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