Thousands of Vietnam veterans and their families and friends rallied on Capitol Hill September 12 under the banner of Vietnam Veterans for Truth to protest John Kerry’s presidential campaign.
John O’Neill, author of the New York Times bestseller Unfit for Command (published by Regnery, a sister company of HUMAN EVENTS), addressed the crowd. “John Kerry is not fit to tie the shoes of the heroes we have here at this rally,” he was reported as saying.
Veterans who participated in the protest later told HUMAN EVENTS they resented Kerry for making his Vietnam service the center of his campaign, especially after his extremely anti-military 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In that testimony, Kerry accused U.S. servicemen of routinely committing war crimes in Vietnam and “murdering” 200,000 Vietnamese civilians each year.
Dexter Lehtinen, a former U.S. attorney who is married to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R.-Fla.), addressed the group. Lehtinen, whose face was disfigured by a mortar explosion in Vietnam, later told HUMAN EVENTS that one of the first things he remembers hearing after recovering consciousness following his injury was someone telling him about Kerry’s testimony.
“The next thing I remember is people telling me, ‘That guy is calling you Genghis Kahn,'” he said. Lehtinen said that when he saw Kerry salute at the beginning of his speech at the Democratic National Convention in July, he felt “revulsion. Revulsion that he not only was such a turncoat and bearing false witness against us 30 years ago, but that he has no sense of remorse about having done that to us.”
“I recovered from what the North Vietnamese did to me,” Lehtinen said, “but you don’t recover from what John Kerry did. Those wounds never go away.”
Also speaking at the event was Jim Warner, a former POW who was forced by his North Vietnamese captors to read statements made by Kerry accusing American forces of war crimes in Vietnam.
B.G. Burkett, author of Stolen Valor and a nationally recognized expert on military service records and decorations, told HUMAN EVENTS after the rally that he was critical of Kerry for angling to leave Vietnam early. “When we went to Vietnam, we committed to 12 months to our country,” said Burkett, a Vietnam veteran himself. “We had the obligation to either spend the 12 months, come out on a stretcher, or come out in a coffin. And every damned one of us did it. Every one of those Swift Boaters who’s standing up against [Kerry], every one of those guys completed one tour, and many did two tours.”
Burkett also bashed Kerry for joining the radical group Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) when he returned to the U.S. “You had all these anarchists, and Communists, and Black Panthers, and criminals, and every variety of thing in this organization,” he said. “And only when it became really apparent that they were going to the far reaches of the Earth did Kerry finally jump ship.”