On February 2, 2011, I fell off a ladder landing on a steel fence in below-zero weather, fracturing my back, a rib, and got a minor concussion as well as a subdural hematoma, a brain bleed. Then, last fall I fell off the top of another ladder in my barn and severely bruised my hip, thigh, and a rib. Eight years ago, I wrote about my wife having rotator cuff surgery, getting an infection, and having to be cut in the same scar and operated on again. Just thinking about such pain and facing traumatic memories like those, makes me cringe.
Such memories, however pales in comparison to what I am going through right now, in my heart. The old hurts are re-surfacing, the pain, and the feelings of betrayal are returning. I am being cut in the same scar, facing a new fracture in the broken places.
How did we who served in Boy Scouts, our churches, or Student Councils suddenly get brain-washed overnight by the military and turned into cold-blooded killers, torturers, and rapists, of the ilk of the Nazi SS, the Taliban, or al-Qaida? That does not make sense, does it? Most American soldiers, like me, grew up idolizing John Wayne, Roy Rogers, and all the other heroes of my youth. That was why I volunteered to join the army, go to OCS, earn Jump Wings, a Green Beret, and go to South Vietnam to fight.
President Barack Obama is considering making John Kerry, of all people, our new Secretary of Defense. After spending only four months in the country of Vietnam, John Kerry testified before Congress in 1971 with these exact words about incidents he supposedly witnessed or heard about from other vets: “They personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam.”
I was a Green Beret officer in 1968 and 1969 on a Special Forces A-team 4 miles from the border of Laos and a District Coordinator of the Top Secret Phoenix Program. We were the most-highly trained of all soldiers and saw the most action of anybody in that war. Everybody in the world knows that, but what the news does not report was that we also built churches, schools, treated illnesses, passed out food, clothing, medicine, and good will. We had fun and loved interacting with the indigenous people of Vietnam, just like our boys did in Normandy, Baghdad, Saigon, and everywhere American soldiers ever served. We are the ones who gave away and still do give away our candy bars and rations to kids, our friendship to primitive fellow warriors in far-off lands, and our hearts to oppressed people all over the globe, but you John Kerry labeled us as mindless robotic killers and rapists just so you could launch your intended political career. You also with your outrageous lies furthered the anti-war movement sending honorable, noble Vietnam veterans into a nationally-imposed closet of shame and disgrace not to be brought out into the light until just recently. Now that we are “in vogue,” posers everywhere now claim to be Vietnam veterans.
John Kerry, you betrayed all of us contributing to the myths and fallacies of the Vietnam anti-war movement when you tossed all your dubious medals over the fence of the US capitol so you could send your new political career into orbit as the star of the anti-war movement. And where has it gotten you, Senator? You ran for President and are being considered for a Cabinet position, but you are reviled and despised by millions of your fellow veterans. I always smile and do not ever hide my face when I look in the mirror to shave in the morning. I wonder what you do?
Senator John Kerry, you and I were military officers in Vietnam. If you personally saw all these atrocities occur in Vietnam, as an officer why didn’t you stop them or at the very least report them? Why is there not one record anywhere of you ever reporting a single atrocity to higher headquarters of any command at any time? As officers, it was our duty to report and stop such things from happening. As an officer of the US military, by not reporting them when they occurred, you are an accomplice to numerous crimes and should have been court-martialed. Then, after Vietnam, while still a Reserve officer in the US Navy you went to Paris, met and negotiated with the North Vietnamese delegation, and have admitted same publicly. You were not a government official at that time, and that clearly was consorting with the enemy and totally illegal under the tenets of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That is in fact considered treasonous, and you should have also been court-martialed for that. Now, you want to be the Secretary of Defense? You want to make decisions that will affect the lives of my sons who serve in the US Army Special Forces now? You slandered US Marines proudly serving in the Global War on Terrorism and now want to command them? I don’t think so, Senator.
You are a bold-faced, unprincipled liar, and a disgrace, and you have dishonored me and all my fellow combat veterans. People forget that it was honorable, normal soldiers who reported and stopped the My Lai Massacre, and other atrocities since then. Hollywood and the news media would have us think every Vietnam veteran is a tortured soul destined to become a serial killer thanks to self-serving scoundrels like you. Over 58,000 men and a few women died in South Vietnam and you have disgraced them all with your political posturing, and they cannot defend their legacy of honor or speak for themselves. However, I can and will, and so will many of my fellow veterans, very many.
Mr. President Barack Obama, we are not on the same page at all on most issues, but you are my President and will have my loyalty as long as you are. I implore you, do not open old wounds, Sir? We Vietnam veterans have been through way too much for more scarring. Do not even consider Senator John Kerry as our next Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, or any other Cabinet position. That would be akin to appointing Louis Farrakhan the Ambassador to Israel.
Senator Kerry, I will put my record as a warrior up against yours any day. Besides, I wrote you when you ran for President back in 2004, “Medals do not make a man; Morals do.”
Don Bendell is a best-selling author, a disabled Green Beret Vietnam veteran, and a 1995 inductee into the International Karate and Kickboxing Hall of Fame.
Permission is hereby granted to reprint, copy, or pass this on wherever and to whomever you choose. This is posted on Don’s blog, Shooting from the Hip, accessed at his website www.donbendell.com.