Tom Oliphant As Witness
On the way to the fence where he threw some of his military decorations 33 years ago, I was 4 or 5 feet behind John Kerry.What of Dubya's medals - don't tell me the Alabama National Guard didn't issue medals of valor for being AWOL. What about the drunken arrogant ass star?
As he neared the spot from which members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War were parting with a few of the trappings of their difficult past to help them face their future more squarely, I watched Kerry reach with his right hand into the breast pocket of his fatigue shirt. The hand emerged with several of the ribbons that most of the vets had been wearing that unique week of protest, much as they are worn on a uniform blouse.
At the spot where the men were symbolically letting go of their participation in the war, the authorities had erected a wood and wire fence that prevented them from getting close to the front of the US Capitol, and Kerry paused for several seconds. We had been talking for days -- about the war, politics, the veterans' demonstration -- but I could tell Kerry was upset to the point of anguish, and I decided to leave him be; his head was down as he approached the fence quietly.
In a voice I doubt I would have heard had I not been so close to him, Kerry said, as I recall vividly, 'There is no violent reason for this; I'm doing this for peace and justice and to try to help this country wake up once and for all.'
With that, he didn't really throw his handful toward the statue of John Marshall, America's first chief justice. Nor did he drop the decorations. He sort of lobbed them, and then walked off the stage.