Saturday, August 28, 2004

Attention fans of Senator Kerry: Please defend

A lot of people are pretty angry that critics of Senator John Kerry, Democratic Party candidate for President, question his service record in the Vietnam War era. I, for one, have gone on record defending his accomplishments during his time in Vietnam (and certainly not during his testimony before Congress), because I have a particular fondness for any Veteran, and especially for those who have served in combat.

That much being said, I find it curious that while Senator Kerry can dish it out (his comparison of those who serve in the National Guard to those who flee the US to avoid draft), no one is apparently permitted to question his military career if the question doesn't center around his carefully worded talking points on his own website.

After calls from Sen. Kerry and the demands of his supporters, President Bush has opened all of his service records, indeed even his dental records, of his time served in the National Guard. The President does not speak often of his service, and generally only when he is asked about it. He does not have tales of working under enemy fire, but no one would suggest piloting a fighter aircraft is an easy (or safe) task. He did not serve outside of this nation's border, but I've read report where as many as 1 in 6 pilots who died in Viet Nam were Air National Guard members (currently, I cannot substantiate this figure); if you were to tell me Lt. Bush served as a QuarterMaster at the Dallas Armory, I would submit he would have little to call upon as having 'served' (with all due respect to those domestic QM personnel). Regardless, there is ample evidence that Lt. Bush served and was honorably discharged.

The latest concern over his service revolves around the apparent 'issue' over whether he was legitimately allowed to wear his Unit's Outstanding Unit Award. Amazing... could the young Lt. Bush actually get away with wearing what amounts to be a an award regarding attendance (or other non-heroic issue) in a family photo op?? Since no one, not even the President himself, has made an effort to tout his military career, this seems to be the scraping of the barrel by his critics.

However, politics, as we all know, is not for the fainthearted. So as one group questions Mr. Bush's Unit award, another focuses again Sen. Kerry's award. I refer to Friday's Chicago Sun Times, which reports:

The Kerry campaign has repeatedly stated that the official naval records prove the truth of Kerry's assertions about his service.

But the official records on Kerry's Web site only add to the confusion. The DD214 form, an official Defense Department document summarizing Kerry's military career posted on, includes a "Silver Star with combat V."

But according to a U.S. Navy spokesman, "Kerry's record is incorrect. The Navy has never issued a 'combat V' to anyone for a Silver Star."

Naval regulations do not allow for the use of a "combat V" for the Silver Star, the third-highest decoration the Navy awards. None of the other services has ever granted a Silver Star "combat V," either.

What's more, while we have been invited to review the filled-cavities in Mr. Bush's teeth, we're left in the dark over a considerable amount of Mr. Kerry's military record:

Reporting by the Washington Post's Michael Dobbs points out that although the Kerry campaign insists that it has released Kerry's full military records, the Post was only able to get six pages of records under its Freedom of Information Act request out of the "at least a hundred pages" a Naval Personnel Office spokesman called the "full file."

What could that more than 100 pages contain? Questions have been raised about President Bush's drill attendance in the reserves, but Bush received his honorable discharge on schedule. Kerry, who should have been discharged from the Navy about the same time -- July 1, 1972 -- wasn't given the discharge he has on his campaign Web site until July 13, 1978. What delayed the discharge for six years? This raises serious questions about Kerry's performance while in the reserves that are far more potentially damaging than those raised against Bush.

So there it is: unanswered questions about the Senator's service. Possibly illegitimate awards for heroism -- which, despite the radical critics of the Senator, he did show bravery and was wounded (a questionable number of times, but wounded indeed he was), and that is not to be taken lightly except for how the designation of 'Valor' is concerned. And 6 years before discharge?? What's the nuance in that?

Unless and until Sen. Kerry releases his records to the same degree that Pres. Bush has done, these questions will linger on and on, for the remaining 66 days.

(The full Chicago Sun Times article is a must-read, regardless of which side of the aisle your are on)

At the nomination acceptance speech, Sen. Kerry saluted the nation and announced he was ready for duty once again. He spoke of his military service for most of the speech, taking time out only to speak of one achievement in his Congressional service in all of 19 years. Since he has painfully little to run on regarding his Senatorial career, and since he consistently speaks of his military career, he cannot now say his critics are unfair. Give the critics something, Senator, or the questions will linger.

And I am still waiting, WAITING, for someone to ask for the specifics of the war crimes he admitted to under oath before Congress. Come on, Senator, tells us more about what you and your Band of Brothers did!

The people are waiting.

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