Why Swiftvets do not like Kerry

Washington Post:

William Ferris was confined to a bed in a military hospital, his severed sciatic nerve reminding him of the attack on his Navy Swift boat in a Vietnam river. A shot from a recoilless rifle had pierced the boat's pilothouse and then Ferris's body, leaving him in constant agony.

But it was what appeared on Ferris's television that really pained him. John F. Kerry, a decorated fellow Swift boat driver, was testifying before Congress about atrocities in Vietnam, throwing his medals away, speaking at antiwar rallies. Ferris, who was trying to rehabilitate himself back to active duty, felt betrayed.

"I was livid," Ferris, 57, of Long Island, N.Y., said yesterday, recalling how his dislike for the presidential candidate began in the early 1970s. "I said to myself at the time, this is someone who is using his experience for his own purposes, and this was long before he ever ran for office. I thought he was using, actually manipulating, what he had done in Vietnam. Just like he's doing now."

Ferris is one of 250 Swift boat veterans who in May signed an open letter to the Massachusetts senator asking for full disclosure of his military records, specifically focusing on events during a four-month tour in Vietnam for which Kerry was awarded medals for bravery in combat. The veterans group -- Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- has criticized Kerry for using his military experience as a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, arguing that the Democrat has exaggerated his experiences at war for political gain.

"I thought he was just another hot dog just trying to build his reputation," said Wayland Holloway of Searcy, Ark., who says he crossed paths with Kerry in 1969, one day before the future presidential candidate pulled Jim Rassmann from a river. "The first time I met John Kerry, frankly, I thought he was a very disingenuous person."


Kenneth Knipple of Erie, Mich., who served three years in Vietnam, backed Gore in 2000 but joined the anti-Kerry movement after leaning about it from a fellow vet. "For him to be wounded that many times and lie as many times as he did, I don't want him to be president," said Knipple, who served on Swift boats, but never with Kerry.

"I wasn't there at the time that happened," said Tony Gisclair, a veteran from Poplarville, Miss., who signed the letter, referring to Kerry's combat in Vietnam. "But look at what the man said about us when he came back."

Tony Snesko, a veteran in Washington, D.C., said he was "devastated" by Kerry's antiwar efforts, prompting him to sign on to the group's anti-Kerry message.

Snesko said to see Kerry elected would give credence to the senator's claims that those who fought in Vietnam were reckless baby-killers: "At the point that he might possibly take over this country as president -- it would validate everything that he said about us and would make it appear true."

The effort has gained momentum in the past month, as the veterans group began airing a controversial television commercial questioning Kerry's version of his service and asking him to disclose his military records. The Kerry camp has been attacking Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, calling it a front for President Bush's reelection efforts.


John L. Kipp of Brown County, Ind., said he learned about the letter to Kerry while surfing the Web and added his signature because he does not believe that Kerry is telling the whole truth. Kipp, who commanded a Swift boat in Vietnam, doubts that Kerry would have left his boat to attack an enemy, as he claims. "It really bothered me when he started to ballyhoo his war record," said Kipp, 62. "You don't turn on your comrades and say these terrible, awful things that I know I had never seen. There's something about keeping faith with those you served with."

It is interesting that the Post waited till a Saturday morning to finally publish a story where it interviewed some of the Swiftvets. They just could not work into a day when they have a wider circulation.


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