Delvo, on May 4 2004, 09:42 PM, said:
"Fitness" to do a job and experience at a smaller version of it are not the same thing. The knock against Kerry coming from these vets is about his decision-making and leadership abilities, as much as some of his supporters try to make it be about the way he got one or two of his Purple Hearts.
Given that these vets either didn't actually serve with Kerry or are directly contradicting the things they said in Kerry's own written evaluations (which are uniformly glowing), why should we give their election year complaints any credence? Here's what Kerry's commanding officers wrote at the time:
October 19, 1967, evaluation from Captain Allen W. Slifer:
A top notch officer in every measurable trait. Intelligent, mature, and rich in educational background and experience, ENS Kerry is one of the finest young officers I have ever met and without question one of the most promising.
September 3, 1968, evaluation from Captain E.W. Harper, Jr.:
LTJG KERRY is an intelligent and competent young naval officer who has performed his duties in an excellent to outstanding manner.
December 18, 1969, evaluation from LCDR George M. Elliott:
In a combat environment often requiring independent, decisive action LTJG Kerry was unsurpassed. He constantly reviewed tactics and lessons learned in river operations and applied his experience at every opportunity. On one occasion while in tactical command of a three boat operation his units were taken under fire from ambush. LTJG Kerry rapidly assessed the situation and ordered his units to turn directly into the ambush. This decision resulted in routing the attackers with several enemy KIA.
LTJG Kerry emerges as the acknowledged leader in his peer group. His bearing and appearance are above reproach. He has of his own volition learned the Vietnamese language and is instrumental in the successful Vietnamese training program.
During the period of this report LTJG Kerry has been awarded the Silver Star medal, the Bronze Star medal, the Purple Heart medal (2nd and 3rd awards).
Evaluation co-signed by Joseph Streuli and George M. Elliott on January 28, 1969, and March 17, 1969, respectively:
... exhibited all of the traits of an officer in a combat environment. He frequently exhibited a high sense of imagination and judgment in planning operations against the enemy in the Mekong Delta.
March 2, 1970 evaluation from Admiral Walter F. Schlech:
... one of the finest young officers with whom I have served in a long naval career.
And of the actual sailors who really did serve with Kerry, all but one are effusive in their praise of him.
Stephen Gardner, a gunner's mate on PCF-44, spoke out for the first time last month after hearing conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh question Kerry's war credentials. Gardner, who says "this country's in a world of trouble" if the Democrat is elected president, calls Kerry a "hesitant" commander who shunned danger.
Gardner, 56, claims Kerry retreated during a firefight under the pretense that he wanted to get Gardner medical attention. "It was a panic run," says Gardner, who calls his wound superficial. While he refuses to call Kerry a coward, he recalls "a guy who was protecting himself most of the time."
That view does not square with the recollections of eight other enlisted sailors who served with Kerry and were interviewed for this story. Kerry and other PCF-44 veterans say the shooting was over when they turned back to base.
"I never saw John back down from anything," crewmember Bill Zaladonis says.
"I have no idea where he's coming from," Kerry says of Gardner.
Rassmann also dismisses the idea of a cautious Kerry. He says he is alive today because of Kerry's courage during a vicious battle in March 1969. The special forces soldier had been blown off PCF-94 by a mine that also injured Kerry's right arm. Swimming in the river while being strafed from both banks, Rassmann was convinced he was about to die before Kerry's boat returned. As the soldier struggled to climb scramble nets draped over the boat's bow, Kerry reached down with his uninjured arm and pulled him on board.
"He was frankly nuts coming up to the bow and exposing himself" to the barrage of bullets and mortars, Rassmann says.
"Some day, after we have mastered the wind, the waves, the tides, and gravity,
We shall harness for God the energies of Love.
Then, for the second time in the history of the world,
we will have discovered fire."
--Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin