August 21, 2004

UNLIKE THE STORY OF THE MEDALS, this will be harder to spin:

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 Vietnamese 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.” . . .

“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.

Kerry’s postwar conduct is all a matter of public record, and as Tom Maguire has already noted, the Kerry campaign isn’t in a position to fault those who are unhappy with having their military service besmirched. That Kerry was still a Naval officer while doing so only makes the charges more potent, though — as Maguire also notes — the press has been slow to pick up on that point.

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