Swift Boat: Noun, Fast Patrol Craft, shallow-draft vessels operated by the United States Navy for counterinsurgency operations during the Vietnam War.
Verb, To tell to truth. To expose posers and frauds. To stand tall in the face of character assassination. To stay true to brother sailors and by extension all who served in the Vietnam War.
I wrote earlier this week about the terrific time I spent in DC last weekend celebrating Veterans Day and the Marine Corps birthday in the company of other veterans. There was so much that was good about that weekend that I deliberately held off on writing this column for a few days to keep them separate.
During the course of the weekend I was privileged to meet hundreds of veterans from all services and walks of life. I was thrilled to see that 25 years after the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, those who came to pay their respects to our fallen veterans marked their pride in service in many ways, most often by wearing their uniforms or insignia marking their branch of service and unit.
There were Army veterans wearing the 7th Cavalry's trademark headgear, veterans wearing patches honoring the famed Buffalo Soldiers, China Marines, Navajo code talkers, Seabees, Coast Guardsmen, our allies from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam who had made it to this country after the fall of Saigon, Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans of Foreign Wars chapters from far and wide, Canadians who had come south to serve in Vietnam with us, and of course US Marines. I even met some old friends from Connecticut whom I haven't seen in years.
I had a great time selling copies of my book, Masters of the Art, A Fighting Marine's Memoir of Vietnam, especially when the purchaser was a former Marine helicopter pilot or crewman, or Army, Navy or Air Force veteran, many of whom were directly involved in the incidents and events covered in the book. I have even met a Seabee veteran who helped build the Marine air strip at Quang Tri where helicopters that worked the Northern I Corps area of Vietnam were based and where I was stationed for much of my Vietnam tour.
In all that was great about this weekend, however, there was one fly in the ointment, and although he was an insignificant fly who normally would rate only a shrug of my shoulders before being forgotten, he claimed to be representing John Kerry, and thus I want to share his deeds with a wider audience.
On Saturday afternoon, Nov. 10, 2007, after I had been at the National Mall for about seven hours, huddling against a raw wind, with temperatures in the lower 40s, yet still enjoying the contact with other vets, a guy came along carrying a flier with what he said were cedar tree seeds attached to it. He had no visible military insignia, so I couldn't tell what branch of the armed forces he had served in, if any.
People had been coming up to chat all day, and I initially had no suspicions about this guy. I figured he was a vet who wanted to make contact and talk about his service for a bit.
But he was talking about trees, and how the seeds attached to his flier were of a west coast variety that is fire resistant. He kept yammering and I was only half-listening since there were veterans nearby who had been talking about their experiences and I was paying attention to them. After a half-minute or so talking about the cedar trees, he started talking about the 60s band Country Joe and the Fish.
I wrote about Country Joe in Masters of the Art, but wasn't exactly sure what the guy with the flier was going on about. He asked if he could leave a half-dozen or so on the table next to my book and I said 'why not,' hoping he would go away so I could get back to business.
But almost immediately, a former Marine who had been standing nearby placed a crumpled up copy of the flier on top of the ones on the table and told me "Here, you can put this with the rest of them."
It was immediately apparent that something was wrong. I picked up the flier again, and read the copy about the cedar trees, but then did what I hadn't done initially, which was to take a closer look at the other side. There was so much writing it took up all the space on both sides top to bottom in small print and I hadn't look very closely at first.
But there on the other side was the crux of the issue: in small print it was advertising a website revealing that the distributor was a member of a pro-John Kerry group. At no time had this latter-day Johnny Cedarseed said he was representing Kerry, who generally is not welcome at Vietnam veteran events due to his slander of those of us who served there honorably.
Kerry came home after a significantly abbreviated tour that lasted only four months and hardly rated to make him an expert on the war, but in 1970 he told the US Congress that Americans serving in Vietnam were a bunch of murderers and baby killers who tortured the enemy for fun. That was the method he chose to launch his political career, and that he has any allies in the US Congress at all speaks volumes about the moral and intellectual character of that body.
There was considerable controversy in veterans' organizations in late summer when Kerry sent out an email on his Senate letterhead encouraging participation in the 25th anniversary celebrations at the Vietnam Memorial. Most vets of that war, myself included, consider Kerry's involvement in anything to do with Vietnam that will garner him political support to be nothing short of abject hypocrisy.
So I wasn't happy about one of his supporters sneaking around dumping fliers in the vicinity of the Vietnam memorial. It seemed to be such a typical example of Kerry's duplicity.
He isn't welcome where most Vietnam veterans gather, so he sends in a guy who probably wasn't even a vet, trying to distribute fliers by claiming they are really about trees.
I was angry for trying to be nice to a fraud, and mentally chastised myself for giving that loser even a half-minute of exposure. A trash container was a few feet away and I immediately dumped the entire stock of fliers into it.
But as I thought about it later, I shouldn't have been surprised that Kerry would pull a stunt like that. He isn't welcome at our gatherings, even though he tries to use his time in the service as a lever to garner veterans' votes. Obviously he hopes the younger generation of veterans and non-veterans alike will not know how he turned against his brothers in the Swift Boat squadrons and all Vietnam veterans.
Kerry was an organizer and top official in the communist-inspired and supported Vietnam Veterans Against the War, he was prominent in the Winter Soldier "investigation" in which dozens of frauds claimed to be real veterans who had participated in atrocities in Vietnam. (The title of this column comes from a combination of my last name and that fraudulent communist propaganda event. It's my way of spitting right back in the faces of the SOBs like Kerry who spit on the veterans when we came back from Vietnam.)
There never was anything real or truthful about Kerry. Unlike former Vice President Al Gore, with whom I disagree on politics and his global warming crusade, Kerry tried to make his service more than it was, then lied about what was really happening in Vietnam when he came home, all for political expediency.
Gore had a pretty easy tour in Vietnam as an army journalist and senator's son, especially when compared to front line troops. But I am not aware that he ever tried to make it appear more than it was, and at least he did a full tour. For that I have to give him my respect as a fellow veteran regardless of political disagreements.
Kerry tried to have it both ways all along. He worked with the communists on the American political scene to falsely portray our efforts in Vietnam, and he is alleged to have gone to France to meet with communist agents when he still was obligated to the Navy as a reserve officer.
He got his head handed to him on a silver platter by the veterans' community when he ran for president in 2004 as he well should have. You can't wipe your feet on veterans one day and ask for their votes the next.
It might work in a Democratic stronghold like Boston, but it doesn't work in the rest of the country. Most vets see Kerry as a fraud and a liar and say so with their votes. Even though veterans belong to both major political parities, numerous smaller parties, or stay independent, they also have the GOP elephant's capacity for recall. In other words, they don't forget what Kerry did, and they won't.
Yet, a newspaper in Massachusetts reported last week that Kerry is considering another try at the presidency. He even claims to have put together a devastating counter-punch to the Swift Boat vets.
The article didn't say a word about whether Kerry will sign a release - known as Form 180 - that will allow public scrutiny of his service records. Veterans have been calling for Kerry to sign Form 180 for years, primarily because they believe he was dishonorably discharged from the Navy in the early 1970s after going to France to meet with communist agents.
There also is suspicion that Kerry was pardoned and received an honorable discharge after lame duck president jimmy carter was elected for one term in the late 1970s.
Regardless, the truth about Vietnam is the truth about Vietnam and the truth about Kerry is the truth about Kerry. No amount of spin or packaging will change that and whether the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are a factor in another election is irrelevant.
The public knows the truth about Kerry and if he runs again, he'll be beaten again, most likely by an even larger margin than the last time.
The suggestion that Kerry might again seek national office reminds me of that adage - 'The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome.'
Friday, November 16, 2007