I didn’t write this piece but I salute the man who did. He has said exactly what so many veterans have been thinking for so long. When I returned from
Nam, my roommate in the 82d Airborne was SSGT Charles B. Morris, awarded the
Medal of Honor while serving with the 173rd Airborne in Vietnam. I know
firsthand it’s true that warriors like Charley are tormented in their dreams
and cry out in their sleep as they re-fight their battles; yes that I know
from bunking with him.
But one thing I never heard him do was boast.
Not once, not ever.
May your troubled spirit forever rest in peace, Command Sergeant-Major
I Don’t Know War
I’m not worthy to question John Kerry’s war record. Because I don’t have
one. I spent the Vietnam War in elementary school. And the four years I was
in the Army were all behind a desk. My fort was unofficially known as “Uncle
Ben’s Rest Home.”
So I don’t know anything about war.
Though I do know a little bit about men who’ve been to war. I’ve been around
plenty of those. Like my stepfather. He got bunged up pretty bad in France.
I know that because I saw him in a swimming suit once.
But he never talked about it. Not once.
If you asked him about the war he’d tell hilarious stories about basic
training, or where the guys he served with were from, or how fun it was learning to fly the gliders, or the time they stole the ambulance to go into town and get drunk in France, or a few of the phrases in German he learned. But he’d never actually talk about the war.
Unless he was really drunk.
In which case he still wouldn’t talk about it. He’d cry about it. He’d put
his head in his arms in the wee hours of the morning and sob to himself about how the men around him were broken and torn when the gliders crash landed into the
But that was only once or twice, and that was never about him.
And the little box of medals at the bottom of his footlocker never came out.
It was kind of the same way at the Legion and the VFW. Every day he’d check
in at both places, to sign the book and to have a beer, and I would tag along. All
those men had been in the service, and most had been in combat, but I never heard a war story. Lots of Army stories, and Navy stories, sure. About guys they knew and
leaves they were on and officers they messed with. But nothing about the war.
It was the same way in the Army.
In my day, it seemed like everybody above staff sergeant or captain had been
in Vietnam. I went in 10 years after the war ended but the guys on the second half of their careers had all gone.
You could tell when they wore their dress uniforms. But that was the only
Men didn’t talk about what they’d done in the war. They didn’t boast of
their accomplishments. They didn’t brag about their medals. But if you
chanced to see them in their dress uniforms, with the rows of service
ribbons, you could read their history there, you could see that those who’d
done the most spoke of it the least.
Like one of our drill sergeants in basic training.
Buffing the floor in his office one day we saw the service ribbons pinned to
his Class A uniform on the coat rack. Comparing them to the poster in the company day room we learned he’d gotten the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
We asked about them and he made us do push-ups for being nosey.
The night before graduation, when he welcomed us as fellow soldiers, we
asked him again, we almost pestered him. Finally he relented and gave us two
“I was in a war. I got hurt.”
And that’s all he’d say.
Kind of like a man I know, who received the Medal of Honor. One night he
stood in a long line to shake hands with Colin Powell. The man, because of
the nature of the event, wore his medal around his neck. As he came to Colin
Powell the man said,
“General, it’s an honor to meet you.”
And Colin Powell responded, “No, sir – it’s an honor to meet you.”
Anyway, I know this man, and he’s often asked to tell his story, of how he
earned the Medal of Honor. And he never does. Oh, he answers, and he talks, and he inspires, and he talks about the war. But he neglects the part about the lives he
saved and the courage he showed, and instead talks about a young Vietnamese
man who helped him to safety when his legs were too shot through to hold him
I don’t know anything about war. But I do know a little bit about men who’ve
gone to war.
And none of them act the way John Kerry does.
None of them brag about, boast of, talk about or otherwise try to benefit
from their service. They don’t prostitute their time in uniform for personal gain and ambition.
They all modestly and insistently say that they “didn’t do anything.” They
minimize their contributions and put them in the context of the similarly courageous and noble service provided by their comrades.
A true hero doesn’t boast.
In fact, he kind of keeps his deeds to himself. Which is what makes John
Kerry so different. Which is what makes John Kerry so unbelievable.
I don’t know war. But I do know war heroes.
And John Kerry’s damn sure not one of them.
Thank you for passing this along Russ.