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Vietnam colleague defends Kerry’s record

A Vietnam veteran who served with John Kerry told area veterans and other Democratic faithful not to worry much about some polls that show President Bush in the lead.

Wade Sanders, who like Kerry skippered a river boat in Vietnam, was the headlining speaker for a Kerry campaign organizing meeting Saturday at the Carpenters Local 98 hall in North Spokane.

“I wanted John Kerry to be 10 points behind the first of October,” said Sanders, who was the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy from 1993 to 1998. “We understand that John Kerry is a marathon runner. John Kerry knows when his homework is due.”

Sanders spoke with about 50 veterans and then answered questions from a larger audience about his service, Iraq, Kerry’s election strategy and other campaign issues.

He also took aim at a group of other veterans who have attempted to poke holes in Kerry’s military record.

“These are the things that people pick at when they can’t have a stand-up debate with you on the issues that matter,” Sanders said, referring to a question about whether Kerry was accurate when he claimed that he spent a Christmas in Cambodia.

Rick Williams, an Army Gulf War veteran at the event, said he decided to become more politically active this year because of “the mess Bush is making of our country and the entire world.”

Sanders said Kerry’s military record is important, but isn’t a “central part” of the Kerry campaign. Still, the candidate’s war experience was emphasized in the event.

Nationwide, veterans are split on whether they support Kerry or Bush, who was a member of the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.

“I dislike anyone using his military service to further his political career,” said Air Force veteran Doug Jones, who was reached Saturday at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 51 in Spokane. “I’m disappointed in how both campaigns are making an issue of military service. There are issues that are pressing today that need to be addressed, and past military service has nothing to do with that.”

Jones said he’ll vote in November, but he’s not sure for whom.

Bill Wynhoff, a Navy veteran who served nine years in Vietnam, said he believes Kerry would be weak against terrorism. People doubting Bush’s efforts in Iraq don’t understand the positive impact the United States has made on people’s lives, he said.

“Look at how many millions of people we’ve freed,” said Wynhoff, from the VFW post in Deer Park. Wynhoff stressed that he and other VFW members speak only for themselves, not the organization.

Reached at the Hillyard VFW, Cheri Knox, who served in the Army from 1979 to 1987, said the military records of the candidates, especially Bush’s, are important for voters to know.

“I’ve always been Republican, but I’m very disappointed in what Bush has done,” she said.


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