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Letters to the editor

Ted Kenny

I am writing this because I was a Swift Boat skipper in Vietnam. I am also writing this because I am an American, increasingly dismayed by our political process. Maybe I shouldn’t say the process, but how some people are using it. You probably think I am about to take one side or the other, but I am really not.As for the Swift Boat controversy, I truly see both sides. For the record, I never knew John Kerry, although I was in the same division a year later. I rode the same rivers, canals, coastlines and visited the same small villages. I volunteered, in a manner of speaking, for the simple reason I knew people with wives and kids were going and I didn’t see any reason I should be one of the chosen few. It was a sense of duty, but to call it heroism would be too dramatic.I saw enemy fire but not on a constant basis. I will tell you one thing, the first time you are fired upon is a revelation. You are suddenly hit (no pun intended) by the fact that someone wants to do away with you. It is sobering. It is all the more devastating when either by your own weapon or your order you kill someone. You also become very critical of your own guts. I had Navy SEALS on board one morning after an all-night operation. My job in my mind was to bring them home safe. We came under rocket fire and I immediately told my helmsman to hit the gas and get out of the kill zone. The SEALS started yelling they wanted me to turn into the rocket fire. I did, but I really did not think that was my mission. Was I a heads-up officer or chicken when my first reaction was to get the hell out of there?I say this because it is impossible to come to some sort of meeting of the minds 35 years after the fact. I remember it like it was yesterday, but the guy sitting next to me could remember it in a totally different way. I am skeptical of John Kerry as to how he purportedly handled himself, but that is my right as a fellow officer. It is healthy and more of a critique than a damning indictment. It by no means disqualifies him as a potential PODUS. I really think it is wrong to question each and every incident. There are probably many who think I should not have my Bronze Star. In all honesty I would always think of ground pounders and Marines who had a tougher life than I had. Instead of throwing my Bronze Star over a fence, I think I would felt better by giving it to one of them.I really do criticize John Kerry for his actions after the war. Not the testifying. Not the demonstrations. Not the discarding of medals. That is his right as an American. I think it was also an intensely psychological time. When I came home nobody, and I mean nobody, wanted to hear of my tour. They would avoid any mention of it. Did they think I was going to flip out? Did they think I was a baby killer? Did I make them feel guilty? There was frustration. I really did think about 50,000 being killed in that God-forsaken but strangely beautiful place. But on Wall Street you didn’t bring this up during dinner with a client. Especially with those who had gotten a student deferment or whom someone had gotten into the Guard. You didn’t resent these people, but you just wanted to be able to talk freely. You couldn’t.John Kerry probably felt those same frustrations. Either by happenstance or plan and it really doesn’t matter, he became a spokesman. People wanted to listen to him, and more importantly they were relying on him to deliver their message. It was pretty heady stuff. You could go before Congress in your fatigues and really speak your mind. Did I like what he said? No. Did I agree with him? Partially. Did he have a right to do so? Absolutely. And John did so and followed his cause. Good for him. But John O’Neill felt just as strongly. I served with John briefly. I found him to be a little full of himself, but God knows we all suffer from that disease from time to time. O’Neill felt Kerry was wrong and wanted to take him on at every turn and that is cool, too. In a perfect world, we would listen to both of them and draw our own conclusions.Probably the point that took me from this path of equanimity was the Democratic convention. I watched well over 50 percent of the proceedings. I really want to listen and be open minded. I wanted to see what John Kerry was really about. When I saw the orchestration of the Swift Boat era, I was intrigued at the footage but ticked off at the emphasis. John Kerry dissed the Navy uniform, medals, etc., and that was fine. But then to come back and now embrace all that history in a totally different sense really bugged me. It had nothing to do with definitions of heroism, but really where is this guy’s head? He can’t have it both ways. But then again, can’t he change his mind? Of course, but stand up and have the guts to admit I was wrong or right or whatever. This not a John Kerry disease, but a disease of almost 99 percent of those we would call politicians.Upon introspection I realized that this is how our political process and maybe our society has evolved. There are handlers and spin men and PR men ad nauseam. If a candidate speaks his mind, like Dick Cheney did today regarding same sex unions, there are those that want to jump on his case for being a flip flop. There are others that want to do damage control for his God-forbid not adhering to the party line. And that is true for Democrats and Republicans. Liberals and conservatives. Blacks and whites. Rich and poor. It is not a healthy exchange of ideas, but strictly are you with us or agin us? How dare you listen to this guy or that gal who does not share the same ideas? Compromise is gone. Civility is shot. Worst of all there is no healthy discussion of issues, and that is sad.The Swift Boat controversy should not be divisive but rather educational. Let’s realize we have differences, but let’s LISTEN to all sides. Let’s really make up our own minds not by party label or lot in life but what our gut tells us is right. It’s strange. The civil rights protests to speak and be heard happened 40 years ago. And yet now the strains of bigotry, prejudice and hate seem all the more prevalent, if not more subtle. Now it is not the color of your skin, but your personal beliefs. Peter Boyle of KHOW radio in Denver feels this could be one of, if not the most important elections in the history of our nation. I agree we (and I mean all sides) are letting the issues fall by the wayside. We are wasting valuable time for discussion with 527s on both sides. Let’s not worry about war or Guard records, but what is in this guy’s gut and heart, and whether we want him to lead us in what is and could be the scariest time of many generations.Ted KennyEdwardsVail, Colorado


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