Repaying a Big Debt to Lt. Kerry
A former Green Beret saved 35 years ago by the young senator-to-be is happy to help him now.
The eyes still get watery 35 years later, and Jim Rassmann — former Green Beret, retired California cop — doesn't want anybody to see. He turns away or uses his beefy hands to cover up.
But he gets through it, recalling in vivid detail the day, March 13, 1969, when John F. Kerry snatched him out of a muddy brown river in Vietnam and saved him from a watery end.
thanks to Eschaton
It's difficult to put into words why I'm linking to this article. Maybe you had to be in that time.
It's just an article about some dude who met Kerry, under rather extenuating circumstances, a long time ago in a far away place. Well, folks, that long ago time keeps coming back and hitting me in the face. And, for those of you that have been born since, I'm sure it keeps hitting a lot of others, too.
I was lucky. I didn't have to go. In the summer of 1962, at 18, I went to my pre-induction physical at the invitation of my Draft Board. I was planning on enlisting, since I would get to serve a shorter time than if I was drafted. I had grown up in a military family and felt that serving was something a citizen should do. Not that it would break my heart not to serve. And not to serve turned out to be it, when they found out about my asthma. I supported the war until 1968. After all, the government has access to information that civilians don't. Then, in January 1968, the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive. They actually took over the American Embassy in Saigon for a brief period. That was my What the fuck? moment. I realized then that everything the government had told the American people was a lie and being in Vietnam turned into a nightmare.
Those were very intense times. It was a time of euphoria and a time of tears of rage.
It was all very painless
When you went out to receive
All that false instruction
Which we never could believe.
And now the heart is filled with gold
As if it was a purse.
But, oh, what kind of love is this
Which goes from bad to worse?
Tears of rage, tears of grief,
Must I always be the thief?
Come to me now, you know
We're so low
And life is brief.
And the years have not stopped the tears. There are songs I can't listen to without tears.
Some folks are born made to wave the flag,
ooh, they're red, white and blue.
And when the band plays "Hail To The Chief",
oh, they point the cannon at you, Lord,
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no senator's son,
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate one, no,
Nor can I read articles like this without tears. Tears of rage. The whole fucking senseless waste. And what did we learn with over 50,000 American lives and a few million Vietnamese lives? Not a fucking thing.
Within the next couple of months, my sister and I will be going to Washington, D.C., to see my grandfathers paintings from another war. I will take some time to go to the Vietnam Wall.
There are over 50,000 names on that wall. I want to thank them for their sacrifice. I also want to apologize to them for not working hard enough to get them home alive.