View Full Version : Vietnam stance irks veterans

John Ashcroft
01-30-2004, 08:34 AM
Now that U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is claiming the veteran vote based on his war record, both sides of that story should be told.

To appreciate the dark side of Kerry's war record, you should know a few things about Vietnam veterans.

The public and the press make a mistake when they divide us into decorated veterans like Kerry and then all the others.

We like to think of ourselves as brothers -- those who fought the enemy directly in combat and those who provided vital support in protected areas that were in many cases exposed to attack.

Even today, when two Vietnam veterans meet for the first time, they might say, "Welcome home, brother!" because many were never welcomed home. They met the cold shoulder of an ungrateful nation on their return.

Those of us whose job was combat feel an even deeper sense of brotherhood. We learned to trust our brothers on the ground, on the water and in the air to do the right things to protect one another, a bond that cannot be fully explained in words.

We quietly feared dying in battle, but there was something we feared even more. We knew if we should panic under fire and fail to do our job, we might lose our brothers' trust or we might lose their lives, and this we feared more than anything.

Like Kerry, I have a couple of medals, but who has what medal among combat veterans doesn't make a dime's worth of difference between us. What matters is that we are, for the rest of our life, brothers who kept faith with one another in a miserable war.

A young Kerry, however, broke faith with his brothers when he returned to the United States. With the financial aid of Jane Fonda, he led highly visible protests against the war. He wrote a book that many considered to be pro-Hanoi, titled "The New Soldier."

The cover photo of his book depicted veterans in a mismatch of military uniforms mocking the legendary image of Marines raising the American flag atop Mount Suribachi in the 1945 battle for Iwo Jima, holding the American flag upside down.

Kerry publicly supported Hanoi's position to use our POWs as a bargaining chip in negotiations for a peace agreement. Kerry threw what appeared to be his medals over a fence in front of the Capitol building in protest, on camera of course, but was caught in his lie years later when his medals turned up displayed on his office wall.

Many good and decent people opposed the Vietnam War. Many of us who fought it hated it, too. I know I did.

But like Fonda's infamous visit to Hanoi in 1972, Kerry's public actions encouraged our enemy at a time they were killing America's sons. Decades after the war was done, interviews with our former enemy's leaders confirmed that public protests in the United States, like Kerry's, played a significant role in their strategy.

Many of us wonder which of our brothers who died young would be alive today had people like Fonda and Kerry objected to the war in a more suitable way.

Now that it serves his ambition to be president, Kerry reminds the public of his war record daily. But the dark side of that record is not being told. Many Vietnam veterans have taken notice, and many of us will vigorously oppose Kerry's election to any office.

Terry L. Garlock of Peachtree City was a Cobra helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He received the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Distinguished Flying Cross.

Link: here (http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/0104/29garlock.html)