Shame on Him
John Kerry picked the wrong people to insult.
BY RONALD R. GRIFFIN
Friday, November 3, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
I missed the joke. You must forgive me, for there just is not a lot of room in my life for even good jokes--and there is absolutely no room for "botched jokes"--when the subject of the joke is my son who was killed in Iraq. I know exactly what came out of Sen. John Kerry's mouth, and in those words there is no interpretation required. His attempt to convince us--and, I believe, to convince himself that that there was really a botched joke buried deep within his insult is in fact a reaffirmation of his ever-present condescending nature. He actually believes that we are stupid enough to agree with him and start laughing simply because he said it was a joke. Mr. Kerry said exactly what he meant and meant exactly what he said. In those words Mr. Kerry did in fact wash completely away the facade of his support of our magnificent troops and revealed for all to see his true colors.
All one had to do is look into the face of Mr. Kerry as the last word came out of his mouth, and it was painfully obvious that he knew that he had just disparaged the entire military. As the firestorm grew, the calls for an apology filled me with unease. It is not up to him to determine if an apology is in order. That decision most certainly rests with the millions of individuals he offended, and then they would decide if they were going to accept one or not.
As Sen. Kerry began his soon-to-be-reversed "I apologize to no one" rebuttal to a call for an apology, I was driving by the memorial built in honor of Kyle, my son, and the other fallen heroes from my town. As I listened, I tried unsuccessfully to make sense of the meteor shower of thoughts that were streaking through my mind. Then came one remembrance that brought all those other thoughts to an instantaneous halt. Last year I had written an editorial and I received a number of written replies. Among those was one postmarked from San Diego addressed simply to "the father of a hero" and my town of Emerson, N.J.
It started off friendly enough then quickly became argumentative and before the first paragraph was completed this individual had written, "I am glad that your son got killed for he probably was an idiot just like you". My first reaction, and really the only reaction I have ever had, was sadness for an individual who is so consumed with anger that he felt it necessary to lash out at me for my beliefs.
That is exactly how I feel about John Kerry. His anger was in full bloom as he tried desperately to control the damage that his words had caused. He knew full well that he could not defend his remarks, so he attacked President Bush. In doing so he reinforced his now fully revealed condescending attitude towards our troops. He talked over them, as he always does, never even beginning to understand that there might be individuals who were truly and deeply offended by his remarks. The explanation for that is quite simple: He firmly and deeply believes that anyone who would be so stupid as to join the military is beneath the high moral perch on which he thinks he sits.
Even in his so-called apology the next day, Mr. Kerry could not bring himself to admit that he had made a mistake. It was not his fault that I might be offended; it is my fault because I "misinterpreted" what he said.
Over these past 3 1/2 years, whenever I have been asked to be interviewed or speak at a function, I purposely do not write anything down. I do not want my emotions to be confined by the words that I have practiced; rather, I want to share with the people I am speaking with the full range of emotions that I live with each day in order that they might understand me in human terms. On the day that he aggrieved so many individuals by his words, that is what Sen. Kerry was doing. He dropped the pretense and revealed to the world what was in is heart, to his never-ending detriment.
Anyone who has spent any amount of time with our troops comes away with a sense of awe, attributable not just to their bravery and valor but to their intelligence and character. In one of the many conversations I had with Kyle, I reminded him that as he moved up the ladder in the military, he would have to be ever mindful that the caliber of the individual got better and better and that he would have to work harder and harder. Kyle did not want to go to college; he wanted to be a soldier. He joined and only had one demand and that was to be Infantry. He was airborne qualified and had orders to go to Ranger school, but the war in Iraq came first. I can still recall to this day the astonishment in his voice when he told me of his passing of the 82nd Airborne Pre-Ranger course and the incredible individuals he graduated with. Only four in 10 did so. Little did I know at the time that he was voted by those other graduates as Best Ranger.
Sen. Kerry has really picked on the wrong crowd this time. Not so much the individual soldiers he so clearly insulted, for they are great judges of true manhood, and in him they have found him wanting. When he ran for president, they voted against him by almost 4 to 1.
They will laugh him off, but their loved ones are a different matter. Kyle died with two of his buddies, Spc. Michael Gleason and Spc. Zachariah Long. Ironic in a way, for they came from Pennsylvania, the great state that has given us these two and so many other magnificent heroes--and Rep. John Murtha, who disparages their service just like Senator Kerry. Kyle and Zack were inseparable. They trained together; rode dirt bikes together; one taught the other how to milk a cow; they deployed together; they earned their Bronze Stars together in rescuing a compromised unit; and they died together at age 20, one asleep on the other's shoulder.
In their death and our sorrow, I have come to know and love Zach's mom Karen as Kyle did during those many days spent riding the dirt bikes on their farm in Pennsylvania and eating her out of house and home and probably a cow or two. On Wednesday I called Karen to ask what she thought of Sen. Kerry's remarks. I was shocked that she had no idea what I was talking about, for she hardly watches any news anymore. I read her the quote from Mr. Kerry and shut up as she digested and interpreted the words. She then simply said, "Shame on him for insulting my boy. He just called my boy stupid. Shame on him."
John Kerry can attempt to apologize in as many forms and as many times as has the breath but he can be assured that the pain that he has inflicted upon this wonderful woman will forever be part of the pain that she endures each day and in reality there was no reason for it to happen.
It is in my mind the height of irony that John Kerry, a Yale graduate, would make two other Yale graduates the butt of his supposed joke. One we all knew as President Bush; the other is known mostly to those who have proudly served with and under him. On the day Kyle died, this gallant warrior was to take command of Kyle's parent unit, the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion. Kyle was on his way to the ceremony when he and his buddies were killed. Here is a man who is the epitome of intellect, character and gallantry--an individual that Mr. Kerry does not believe exists.
John Kerry stands alone, to be judged by his words. He has given us the rare opportunity to look into the soul of a politician, and he has shown himself wanting, especially in view of the fact that he asked us to allow him the honor and privilege of leading our gallant military at a time of war. It is rare in life to be able to know the consequences of both sides of a decision. Mr. Kerry has clearly demonstrated what manner of president he would have been. Fortunately the American electorate denied him that high honor.
Mr. Griffin is the father of Spc. Kyle Andrew Griffin, a recipient of the Army Commendation Medal, Army Meritorious Service Medal and the Bronze Star, who was killed in a truck accident on a road between Mosul and Tikrit on May 30, 2003.