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Every candidate for public office probably has some excess baggage to carry around that he’d rather not have. With Senator John Kerry, it’s undoubtedly his anti-Vietnam War activism that followed his heroic naval service in Vietnam...............
......................... There is no question that John Kerry earned his decorations and that he put his life at risk in the service of his country. There is no doubt in my mind, moreover, that he has the intelligence to serve as president. But there is also no doubt in my mind that his anti-war activities while our troops were still fighting, dying and being tortured in filthy Vietnam prisons were despicable.
For that reason, even aside from his anti-defense voting record in the Senate, he is one ex-shipmate that I could never support as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
When I read “Tour of Duty”, I became concerned because the material on Kerry’s time on GRIDLEY appeared in many instances to be exaggerations and in some cases figments of an overactive imagination
4. Later on page 87 Kerry talks about Olongapo in the Philippines. He talks about bloated corpses floating in the river and starving women with babies dying of malnutrition. Now Olongapo was a wild and wooly town that existed solely for the entertainment of the US Navy, but in over three years of calling there, I never saw a single instance of either thing happening. Kerry uncovered this in his first visit. If this was from his letters home then he was certainly writing for dramatic effect. Balderdash.
In Response: Area resident served with Kerry, saw courageous, respectful officer
By ANTHONY E. SCHMITT Special to the Courier & Press
August 19, 2004
My feelings about presidential candidate John Kerry are drawn from my experiences and observations while serving in the U.S. Navy with him aboard the USS Gridley from June 1967 to June 1968.
My observations of the man lead me to believe it was Kerry's sense of duty to his country and empathy for those he left behind in Vietnam that propelled him to join the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. I don't know if that was the right thing to do at the time, or even now. However, I do know that I have a sense of guilt for doing nothing after my discharge from the military, while American soldiers continued to die in a war that I knew was going nowhere. It lasted another excruciatingly painful six years.
In my mind, John Kerry had another kind of courage after his military discharge. He received no medals, only scorn, for attempting to do something about a war he knew to be wrong. Those who fought in that war have the right to judge him for that. After the war, I know I did nothing to stop it, and for that I am not proud.
These are difficult times that require a leader with unique courage and the ability to bring the country, and the world, together for our very survival. At this time in our nation's history, I believe John Kerry possesses the very character, courage, and skills to do just that.
Former crew mate recalls young Kerry as 'good guy'
By The Associated Press
July 30, 2004
NASHVILLE, Ind. - John Kerry was a new Navy ensign when Bob Birdsong first met him aboard the USS Gridley, and the Brown County electrician says he has respected the Democratic presidential nominee ever since.
Kerry had just graduated from Yale when he arrived aboard the guided missile frigate during a 1968 duty tour in the Vietnam theater.
Birdsong spent all four years of his naval career as a member of the Gridley's crew and did not move on to the kind of dangerous service that Kerry did when he became commander of a "swift boat" patrolling the Mekong Delta.
He has followed Kerry's political career and counts himself a strong Kerry supporter.
"I know he's a good guy, based on what I saw of him then," Birdsong said.
Birdsong returned to Brown County after his stint in Vietnam and spent most of his career as an electrician. In recent years, he and his wife, Robin, have grown flowers that they sell at area farmers markets and rent out their rural home some 20 miles east of Bloomington as a getaway for visitors.
Birdsong acknowledged that veterans were divided over Kerry's anti-war activism after he returned from Vietnam.
"I'm not in favor of war, either, but sometimes you've got to do things you don't want to do for your country, whether you believe that ought to be going on at the time or not," Birdsong said. "I felt the same way he did."
His biographical materials never mention this period even though he was aboard GRIDLEY much longer than he was in Vietnam. When questioned about that, Kerry told Douglas Brinkley that "nothing much of note happened during his tour aboard the vessel." So much for us! For a further review of some of the inconsistencies in the Brinkley book, see the Kerry Page.