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Inside Politics

Wartime comrades to be on hand for Kerry

David Alston: 'I saw his courage, his trustworthiness'


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Sen. John Kerry and fellow Vietnam War veterans travel Wednesday in a water taxi across Boston Harbor.
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BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Praising his courage and loyalty, veterans who served in the military with Sen. John Kerry said they will be onstage Thursday night when the Massachusetts Democrat accepts his party's presidential nomination.

Kerry, who was in the U.S. Navy from November 1968 to March 1970, was awarded a Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts for his bravery.

"I saw his courage, his trustworthiness, his loyalty, honesty and so many attributes. A man of great character, and that's what this country needs today," David Alston, a crew mate under Kerry in Vietnam, told CNN's "American Morning."

Jim Rassman, a former Green Beret, credits Kerry with saving his life in Vietnam.

"John was an outstanding leader," Rassman said. "The man was courageous. He led from the front. He absolutely took care of his guys. I think these men can tell you. He watched out for them very sincerely."

Asked about criticism of Kerry for speaking out against the war after returning home, former crew mate Fred Short said, "I thought it was about time someone said something about it because we were losing folks left and right.

"He earned the right as a veteran, and as far as I was concerned, it was his obligation to us, the crew, to speak out, because his voice was much louder than ours."

Kerry has said he was critical of the war because he saw the lives of his fellow fighters put at risk because some leaders in Washington were making bad decisions.

Kerry became a spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War and later co-founded Vietnam Veterans of America.

With several polls showing many Americans have more trust in President Bush on national security matters, Democrats have been emphasizing Kerry's military record. Bush served in the Texas National Guard during the Vietnam era.

At the convention Thursday night, running mate Sen. John Edwards said that anyone who questions whether Kerry is a strong, decisive leader needs to "spend three minutes with the men who served with him" in the Navy in Vietnam. (Edwards: 'Hope is on the way')

"They saw up close what he's made of," Edwards said. "They saw him reach into the river and pull one of his men to safety and save his life. They saw him in the heat of battle make a decision in a split second to turn his boat around, drive it through an enemy position and chase down the enemy to save his crew.

"Decisive. Strong. Is this not what we need in a commander in chief?"


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