Tuesday, July 13, 2004
USA Today June 25, 2004 Pg. 8 Criticism Of Kerry's Purple Heart Is Just Retired U.S. army colonel David Hackworth defends presidential candidate John Kerry's Purple Hearts. He correctly notes that they are awarded for a wound that necessitates treatment by a medical officer and that is received in action with an enemy (''The meaning of a Purple Heart,'' The Forum, June 16). I was the commanding officer to whom Kerry reported his injury on Dec. 3, 1968. I had confirmed that there was no hostile fire that night and that Kerry had simply wounded himself with an M-79 grenade round he fired too close. He wanted a Purple Heart, and I refused. Louis Letson, the base physician, saw Kerry and used tweezers to remove the tiny piece of shrapnel -- about 1 centimeter in length and 2 millimeters in diameter. Letson also confirmed that the scratch was inflicted with our M-79. We admire Col. Hackworth, but he, above all people, knows why it is unacceptable to nominate yourself for an award. It compromises the basic military principle that we survive together. To promote yourself is to denigrate your team. I hope Col. Hackworth will rethink his characterization of Kerry's swift-boat comrades as ''grousers'' passing on ''secondhand bilge.'' In our case, this is firsthand knowledge, and our integrity is unquestioned. Kerry orchestrated his way out of Vietnam and then testified, under oath, before Congress that we, his comrades, had committed horrible war crimes. This testimony was a lie and slandered honorable men. We, who were actually there, believe he is unfit to command our sons and daughters. Grant Hibbard, retired commander, U.S. Navy, Gulf Breeze, Fla. Louis Letson, M.D., Retired lieutenant commander, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy Reserve, Scottsboro, Ala.