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Presidential Hopeful Kerry Receives Mixed Support from Vietnam Veterans - 2004-07-27


When John Kerry accepts the Democratic Party presidential nomination later this week, he will do so with the support of many military veterans who have gathered in Boston.

Senator Kerry and his campaign managers have set out to place the brightest of spotlights on his record of military service during the Vietnam War.

Among the photographs covering the walls of the Fleet Center in Boston are those depicting Mr. Kerry as a sailor during the Vietnam conflict, where he commanded a so-called Swift Boat, and those who served under him.

At a Democratic party-sponsored rally in a Boston hotel before the convention opened, the Kerry campaign brought his fellow Vietnam veterans together, one of whom is Jim Wasser.

"My band of brothers and myself are on one last mission. We consider it our last tour of duty," he said. "That is to ensure John Kerry's election as the 44th president of the United States, to know what it means to take care of a country, a man that knows all people and can relate."

The Kerry campaign has also enlisted the help of one of Mr. Kerry's opponents in the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, former General Wesley Clark.

"We are all retired. We are all united. It is not about rank. It as about commitment, [and] it is about our care, and courage, and compassion," he said. "We volunteered to serve our country, each and every one of us in this room. We are all a member of John Kerry's band of brothers, and we are committed to getting in place in this country the kind of leadership we must have in a time of war and that is John Kerry in the White House with John Edwards."

Not all veterans support Mr. Kerry. His strenuous opposition to the war in Vietnam, expressed in testimony to Congress and statements at anti-war rallies in the 1970s, stimulated strong criticism from other veterans.

Recalling Mr. Kerry's opposition to the war in Southeast Asia, some call him unpatriotic, and accuse the Democratic party of failing to adequately support troops in Iraq.

Earlier this year on Capitol Hill, Sam Johnson, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, was among war veterans responding to criticism from Democratic lawmakers of Bush administration handling of post-war Iraq.

"The Democrats are quitting, calling the war un-winnable while we have our brave military men and women and their families sacrificing every day," he said. "It has got to stop, now."

But as the cheering at the pro-Kerry rally of military veterans in Boston demonstrated, Mr. Kerry is able to point to significant support from many veterans groups who are working for his victory in the November election.

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