Saturday, August 21, 2004

Rolling Thunder

The thunder is rolling in. I remember when I was a boy my father used to say that it sounded like artillery. There'd be heat lightning and thunder in the distance and he'd say how much it reminded him of artillery bombardments. Years later I watched as artillery pounded our enemy. My first thought was one of gratitude for not being on the receiving end of THAT. My next thought was how much it looked and sounded like thunder and lightning. Now is that coming full circle or what?

Speaking of coming full circle, John Kerry's testimony before the U.S. Senate way back in 1971 is now being used against him in a devastating ad by a group known as Swift Boat Veterans For The Truth. They are laying a pretty good barrage on Kerry. Fire for effect, Swifties!

I won't comment on the actions of Kerry in Vietnam. I wasn't there. It was before my time. Besides, a group of Vietnam veterans are saying all that needs to be said.

The Swift Boat Veterans, the folks who were best positioned to observe Kerry in combat, are casting doubt on the veracity of the senator's war stories. This is as it should be for he sold them down the river (no pun intended) and not only them but hundreds of thousands of other veterans who served in Vietnam. I'm glad the Swifties are finally having their day in the sun while setting the record straight. While doing so they've enlightened me, and I'm sure many others, on an aspect of that war that I had not given much thought.. Riverine Operations.

The more I read about the men who served on swift boats and patrol boats, the more my admiration for them grows. It hurts to think they have had the painful memory of Kerry's treacherous (traitorous might be too strong a word, but it's the thought that counts) anti-war actions seared into their souls for the past 35 years as they quietly went about their lives. Welcome home, Swifties! God bless you.

I will comment on the unseemliness of John Kerry constantly bragging about his combat medals and exploits. Combat veterans just don't do that. They might share their experiences with fellow veterans on those rare occasions when they attend a reunion of their combat unit. They might even tell their families about what they went through .. the Cliff Notes version. If they're still on active duty, leading troops as an Officer or Noncommissioned Officer, they'll most likely tell some war stories in the form of lessons learned in combat. But what you will rarely see a combat veteran do is speak about his experience publicly, much less brag about it or try to use it for political gain. Kerry has done that in spades.

I'm reminded of the many times I've run across combat veterans and wouldn't have known had I not asked them straight out. You know the ones? The old guys down at the barbershop. The young guy that fixes your flat at the local service station, the leathery skin roofer who spends so much of his time exposed to the sun, the nurse in ICU, the bankteller...

They have stories that will make you laugh, cry and want to sing "God Bless America" .. if you'll take the time to coax it out of them and listen closely and try not to ask too many questions. Almost without exception, they'll move the spotlight off themselves and, instead, sing the praises of their buddies.

Combat taught them a kind of humility that most people will never know.

No comments: