I have received a lot of emails from people - well-intentioned people - that seek to expose John Kerry's awards as something less than on-the-level. Meaning that his awards in Vietnam were not earned as much as other's awards. While I am relatively certain that this is true, the nature of award giving is not so easily determined.
There's a claim that John Kerry received his three purple hearts for 'mere scratches'. Or the claim that his Chief Petty Officer (top NCO on the swift boat) put him in for his Silver Star.
This really has no bearing on the election unless someone can come forward and testify that the medal citations were fabricated or exagerated. While there are many, many veterans who received the same medals for doing more in the Vietnam war, there is a certain amount of subjective analysis in the awarding of medals.
Take me for example. I have many awards - in fact, so many that my senior NCO's used to say that I looked like a Russian General. One of my more interesting awards was a Meritorious Service Medal that I received for having a very successful company command in the US Army Reserve. The MSM is relatively difficult to receive as a junior officer. A lot of great company commanders on Active Duty don't get that kind of recognition. Was it because I was a great commander? Absolutely not. It was because our company had the best NCOs that you ever met. Every. Damn. One. Of. Them. I received the MSM a year after I relinquished command, and I didn't know that I was submitted for it. Did I earn it more than one of my peers on Active Duty? Absolutely not.
I like to think that I was a good soldier. And that's really what serving in the military is all about.
I understand the anger directed at John Kerry by veterans - especially, Vietnam vets. I understand and share their outrage that anyone is taking this man seriously. But we must temper the anger and outrage with thoughtful discourse or we stand the chance of not being heard at all. I have even begun to tune out some of the shrill cries from friends that are being used by the far right to try to quell the Kerry campaign.
I don't care for John Kerry at all. I personally think that he disgraced
the military himself by his actions. I also believe that, by protesting the war in the manner in which he chose, he had a part in helping us lose the war, lose lives, increase the suffering of our POWs, and setting us back in the Cold War. I believe him to be a crook, duplicitious and conniving. I don't believe that he served the citizens of this country (let alone Massachusets) well. I certainly don't believe that he should be a Senator - let alone President. I would never shake John Kerry's hand.
But I do believe that you have to be careful which source you follow and which sources you can trust - trust to get the story straight or to acknowledge that they didn't get the story straight. Greyhawk at the Mudville Gazette takes a look at this issue as well.
And, in conclusion, Jennifer Martinez received a letter from Don Bendel - a rather well-known former Special Forces Officer who sums up my feelings quite well - Medals Do Not Make A Man.
Update: I have a post about a New York Times article about the anguish that consumed John Kerry during his protest years.