'Hanoi John' Gets Unwelcome Reception From Vets

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'Hanoi John' Gets Unwelcome Reception From Veterans

By Robert B. Bluey
CNSNews.com Staff Writer
July 29, 2004

Boston (CNSNews.com) - Hours after Sen. John Kerry sailed into this city with his Vietnam swift boat crewmates Wednesday, about a hundred other veterans gathered near the Democratic National Convention site to protest the anti-war positions of Kerry's past.

"He's a phony and he's a traitor," said Vietnam veteran Rich Burke, 66, of Boston. "He returned from Vietnam and testified in Congress that the military were baby killers and war criminals. He abandoned and left all of his comrades to put up with that sort of statement. He's no good."

The veterans gathered near Kerry's Boston office at 1 Bowdoin St. around 6 p.m. and marched toward the FleetCenter, where the convention is taking place. Vietnam veterans were joined by Korean veterans and Vietnamese-Americans, many of them from Boston and its suburbs.

The protest was designed to counter Kerry's use of Vietnam, including his war medals, as a campaign issue. Even before Kerry's arrival in Boston with 13 veterans Wednesday, the Democrat had routinely enlisted some of his former comrades to boost his presidential campaign.

"They're in the minority," said Korean War veteran Richard Creccr, 70, of Brighton, Mass. "These are the veterans right here. We're the ones who count. We'll be the ones voting. Let's hope he doesn't make it, but in this country, you never know."

But one prominent veteran, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a one-time Democrat presidential candidate, dismissed the veterans' effort.

"What [Kerry] did was straightforward and courageous," Clark told CNSNews.com. "He received the appropriate recommendations and awards for it. That's the way it should be."

Kerry's repeated mention of Vietnam in his presidential bid has irked some veterans because of the anti-war positions he took once he returned from his four-month tour of duty. Kerry became an influential leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, aligning himself with activist Jane Fonda. One sign on Wednesday compared "Hanoi Jane" to "Hanoi John."

The future U.S. senator also testified before Congress about alleged atrocities that American soldiers had committed in Vietnam. Those memories still linger for some veterans.

"Because of people like Kerry and Fonda, Vietnam vets had to hide under a rock for 15 years," said Reg Cornelia, 60, East Hampton, N.Y. "He came back and he lied about the atrocities, and worse still, he brought guys to testify before Congress who he knew had never served in Vietnam."

Kerry turned on U.S. soldiers as a matter of "political expediency," Cornelia said. He wondered why the news media hadn't pushed Kerry on that subject.

"Mark my words," Burke added. "See how much national news coverage this protest gets. These guys are all veterans, they know his record, and they're all against him. Yet the mainstream media will probably ignore this rally so it becomes a non-event."

Some veterans said they've tracked Kerry's career. Vietnam veteran James Booth, 58, of South China, Maine, said coming out to oppose the Democrat on the eve of his prime-time speech was the right thing to do.

"We know he's a phony," Booth said. "You don't get two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star in 21 days. You don't do it, no way. I was at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] for 18 months. I got one Purple Heart. I lost an eye, part of my jaw and got hit in the arm. This guy's got three scratches and he's making a big deal out of it. It doesn't seem right."
 

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