OK, I finished up the column, and — who knows? — it might even be suitable for publishing. But before I go to bed, here’s a little Compare & Contrast game suggested by reader Gregory Schreiber.
First, we have a Boston Globe story from last year:
Kerry had been wounded three times and received three Purple Hearts. Asked about the severity of the wounds, Kerry said that one of them cost him about two days of service, and that the other two did not interrupt his duty. “Walking wounded,” as Kerry put it. A shrapnel wound in his left arm gave Kerry pain for years. Kerry declined a request from the Globe to sign a waiver authorizing the release of military documents that are covered under the Privacy Act and that might shed more light on the extent of the treatment Kerry needed as a result of the wounds.
“There were an awful lot of Purple Hearts — from shrapnel, some of those might have been M-40 grenades,” said Elliott, Kerry’s commanding officer. “The Purple Hearts were coming down in boxes. Kerry, he had three Purple Hearts. None of them took him off duty. Not to belittle it, that was more the rule than the exception.”
But Kerry thought he had seen and done enough. The rules, he said, allowed a thrice-wounded soldier to return to the United States immediately. So Kerry went to talk to Commodore Charles F. Horne, an administrative official and commander of the coastal squadron in which Kerry served. Horne filled out a document on March 17, 1969, that said Kerry “has been thrice wounded in action while on duty incountry Vietnam. Reassignment is requested … as a personal aide in Boston, New York, or Wash., D.C. area.”
Then there’s Colin Powell, speaking last week to the VFW:
I also went to Walter Reed last week to see some of the troops who have been injured. I went to the orthopedic ward and met a number of these wonderful, wonderful, young men and women who have been injured. And you just can’t help but be enormously proud of them. One young man who had lost his leg, the only thing he wanted to talk to me about was not his injury, not how it happened, but what he said to me was, “General, how soon do you think they can get me back up on my new leg so I can get back into the Army and get back into the fight?” That’s the kind of kids we have. (Applause.) With that kind of spirit, you can be sure we will prevail.
I’m a battalion commander currently serving in Baghdad, and have been around alot of purple heart winners like the one that Sec Powell encountered.
I think the purple heart issue as it relates to Sen Kerrey speaks volumns about him as a leader. He was not a private, but a Lieutenant, a small unit leader. He was taught that as a leader his two critical tasks were; accomplish the mission, and welfare of his soldiers. No leader I know would ever dream of leaving their troops behind especially not on a technicality. 3 medals equals ticket home. A leader should represent Army values of duty, honor, and most importantly selfless service. His actions seem more selfish than selfless.
Secondly, a person who truly earned a purple heart, and had been part of a band of brothers would never disrespect the award by throwing it away. No matter what he thought about the war, he or she would understand they had joined an honored group going back to the revolutionary war. This causes me to doubt he truly has an appreciation for what the award represents because as Bod Dole said, “he didnt bleed”.