Wednesday, August 11, 2004

John Kerry, Hero  

Here are a few collected stories about the lives that John Kerry has saved with his quick, decisive actions.

There are more stories besides the life-saving ones, if you choose to seek them out, about Kerry's sympathy and caring. For the most part I'll leave that up to you. But really, these four stories show exactly why John Kerry is a man deserving of everyone's respect regardless of your political views.

Think about the man you're reading about here, and then consider the motives of those who have been attempting to smear him. And always remember to check non-partisan sources like Annenberg Political FactCheck for the real truth.

Jim Rassmann in 1969
Source: Los Angeles Times, March 13 2004

Rassmann was 21 at the time, a Special Forces lieutenant in charge of a company of American and Chinese fighters. On that day, they traveled on a convoy of five patrol boats led by the 25-year-old Kerry, a Navy lieutenant — and they were on the run, being chased down the Bay Hap River by enemy soldiers firing guns and rockets.

The group had already lost one soldier that day. As they sped down the river, one boat was blown out of the water, and then another. An explosion wounded Kerry in the arm and threw Rassmann into the river. Rassmann dove to the bottom to avoid being run over by the other boats. When he surfaced, he saw the convoy had gone ahead.

Viet Cong snipers fired at him, and Rassmann submerged over and over to avoid being hit. The bullets came from both banks, and Rassmann had nowhere to go. He began thinking his time had come, but the fifth time he came up, he saw the convoy had turned around. Kerry had ordered the boats back to pick up the man overboard.

Kerry's boat, under heavy fire, sidled up to the struggling soldier. Rassmann tried to scramble up a cargo net at the bow but was too exhausted to make it all the way. He clung to the net as bullets whizzed past.

"Next thing I knew, John came out in the middle of all this," Rassmann says. "I couldn't believe it. He was going to get killed. He ran to the edge, reached over with his good arm [Kerry had been wounded in his right arm] and pulled me over the lip."

Rassmann later recommended Kerry for the Silver Star, and was upset when the Army instead awarded Kerry a lesser Bronze Star with a "V" for valor. The medal citation described Kerry's actions on the river that day.

Former US Senator Chic Hecht in 1988
Source: Las Vegas Sun, February 6 2004.

Former U.S. Sen. Chic Hecht of Nevada is a staunch Republican, but he thanks his lucky stars for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

On July 12, 1988, Hecht was attending a weekly Republican luncheon when a piece of apple lodged firmly in his throat.

Hecht stumbled out of the room, thinking he might vomit but not wanting to do it in front of his colleagues. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., thumped his back, but Hecht quickly passed out in the hallway.

Just then, Kerry stepped off an elevator, rushed to Hecht's side and gave him the Heimlich maneuver -- four times.

The lifesaving incident made international news, and Dr. Henry Heimlich, who invented the maneuver in 1974, called Hecht to say that had Kerry intervened just 30 seconds later Hecht might have been in a vegetative state for life.

"This man gave me my life," the 75-year-old Hecht said Thursday.

Hecht said he was amazed that Kerry acted so quickly -- some people were assuming that he was having a heart attack.

"He knew exactly what to do," he said. "But a lot of people know what to do. They just don't size up the situation immediately."

Del Sandusky
Source: Washington Post, July 28 2004

When George Butler, a college friend, broke his hip and femur in 1994, Kerry tracked him down the next day at a hospital in New York. Butler had been lying alone, worrying about a blood clot going to his brain. Suddenly, there was Kerry ringing his phone. He was in Tokyo, where it was 4 a.m.

Another time, Sandusky, Kerry's former helmsman, called him from Illinois and said, "I'm ready to cash it in. I can't stop the bad dreams, and I can't stop the drinking." Over the next 24 hours, Kerry talked to Sandusky -- canceling meetings, instructing aides to yank him off the Senate floor -- until his isolated friend agreed to check into a treatment center. Over the next 12 weeks, Kerry called Sandusky's doctors to make sure they hadn't forgotten his crewmate.

Licorice the hamster - Alexandra Kerry at the Democratic National Convention, July 30 2004

Well, it is an incredible experience to be here tonight. And I have to admit that it hasn't been easy to sift through years of memories about my father and find those few that might best tell you who John Kerry really is. So let me just begin with one July day when Vanessa and I were kids. It's a silly story, but it's true, and it's one of my favorite memories about my father.

We were standing on a dock waiting for a boat to take us on a summer trip. Vanessa, the scientist, had packed all of her animals, including her favorite hamster. Our overzealous golden retriever got tangled in his leash and knocked the hamster cage off the dock. We watched as Licorice, the unlucky hamster, as he became termed, bubbled down into a watery doom.

Now, that might have been the end of the story, a mock funeral at sea and some tears for a hamster lost. But my dad jumped in, grabbed an oar, fished the cage from the water, hunched over the soggy hamster and began to administer CPR. Now, there are still to this day, there are some reports of mouth-to-mouth, but I admit that's probably a trick of memory. The hamster was never quite right after that, but he lived.

Now, like I said, it may sound silly and we still laugh about it today, but it was serious. And that's what mattered to my father.