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August 25, 2004
An Open Letter to Senator John McCain from a Vietnam VeteranBy Russ Vaughn
I begin this missive with an embrazo, as we call it here in Texas, for your service to our country, as a warrior, as a prisoner of war and as a United States Senator. You have served far better and endured far more in the service of America than most men will ever do. For that, this old sergeant salutes you.
That said, as a Vietnam ground combat veteran, I must take issue with you on the situation of John Kerry and the Swift Boat Veterans. You have labeled these men ?dishonest and dishonorable,? and that, Sir, is nothing more than your opinion based on no direct knowledge of the events they dispute. For you to so condemn these men publicly, without any firsthand knowledge of John Kerry?s performance in their midst and under their professional observation, is unfair to them and all veterans who share their view that John Kerry is unfit to command. Who was best qualified to evaluate you as a naval aviator, those senior officers who flew with you or the enlisted men who serviced your aircraft? Who had the experience, training and knowledge to make a professional military judgment of your performance in the air, the trained naval aviators on your wing or the enlisted flight crew back on the carrier? Certainly the enlisted men were vital in performing the mission but observing and rating your performance was not their role.
It is my understanding that you originally shared our animosity towards John Kerry, but during your senatorial service, you came to know him more personally and chose to forgive him for his labeling you a war criminal. That you are able to forgive a man even though he had denounced you and your fellow aviators as you languished in North Vietnamese prisons, with your captors using his testimony to try to break your will, is truly commendable. I admire you for your ability to turn the other cheek. However, I must point out that your forgiveness of John Kerry is purely personal and imposes not one iota of obligation to forgive him on those of us who still consider him contemptible.
You carry no mandate to speak for us. Your personal feelings are yours and yours alone; but, emphatically, you do not speak for us. You spoke up to defend your friend and your friend has turned your words into talking points. It is truly reprehensible how the Kerry campaign and the mainstream media are hiding so cynically behind your condemnation of the Swiftvets, using your statement as an excuse to dismiss their claims as baseless, smear politics. Honestly, Senator, did you really intend to provide this kind of cover for those who are so desperate to prevent the truth from coming out?
With all do respect, since you weren?t there to observe John Kerry first hand as were these Swiftvets, may I humbly suggest that the honorable thing for you to do, is to stay out of this fight and allow them and us to have our voice. Moreover, there is one thing you could do to level the playing field: acknowledge that you have no true knowledge of events the Swiftvets describe and that your immediate condemnation of these men was premature. Call on the mainstream media to investigate all parties fairly and determine whose version of events is true. I understand John Kerry is your friend, but that places him neither beyond accountability nor above the truth. You have a unique ability at this moment in America?s history to make a difference. You have long been a dutiful warrior and servant of the people.
Please, do your duty now.
I would request that all who agree with the sentiments expressed here copy this letter and send it to:
Posted by Russ Vaughn / August 25, 2004 5:30 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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