The Kerry Campaign in Annapolis at my 40th Reunion 2004

(Dan and Joan at Reunion-click to zoom)

Joan and I slowly made our way following the crowd back to the center of Annapolis on our way to our hotel after Navy beat Delaware in football 34-20 overwhelming the Blue Hens and silencing twenty of their despicable fans standing behind us. The Brigade of Midshipmen with the Naval Academy Choir and Band played and sang with Navy fans the traditional song the midshipmen in unison sing at the end of every football game:

(Brigade of Midshipman before the game--click to zoom)

NAVY BLUE AND GOLD

Now, colleges from sea to sea

May sing of colors true.

But who has better right than we

To hoist a symbol hue?

For sailors brave in battle fair

Since fighting days of old

Have proved a sailor's right to wear

The Navy Blue and Gold.

GO NAVY– BEAT ARMY!

(Annapolis Harbor area--click to zoom)

Soon we noticed in a major intersection a gathering of supporters for John Kerry for President passing out literature for the election in three days. “I’m here for my 40th reunion and glad to report many of my classmates, including me,  support Kerry for President,” I said to an organizer.

“I’m so happy to hear that. You can’t imagine how many angry swift-boat types are telling lies about his medals in this campaign. Please inform them of the gross distortions they have made of his record. Here’s a leaflet describing the dirty tricks campaign they launched,” she said.

Kerry’s presidential campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that ads from an anti-Kerry veterans’ group are inaccurate and “illegally coordinated” with Republicans and the Bush-Cheney campaign. Swift Boat Veterans For Truth claimed to quote from Kerry's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971: “They had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads,” “randomly shot at civilians,” and “razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Kahn.”

The ad deceptively ignored Kerry's preface, recounting that he was reporting what others said at a Vietnam veteran’s conference. An official transcript showed that Kerry had been referring to a meeting in Detroit, Michigan, part of what was called the “Winter Soldier” investigation. He told the Senate committee that veterans had testified to war crimes and relived the “absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.”

In the swift boat commercials, former sailors falsely accused Kerry of lying in order to receive two of his five combat decorations, a Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star. The ad featured a sailor who commanded one of five swift boats in the Mekong Delta during an incident March 13, 1969. Kerry was decorated and that sailor had earned a Bronze Star in that incident, yet said “Kerry's boat fled after a mine crippled another boat and was not under enemy fire when he returned to rescue an Army officer knocked overboard by a second mine that detonated nearby.” In contrast the Navy citation for the sailor’s Bronze Star stated “All units began receiving enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire from the river banks.”

Kerry also received a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts for other actions the ad overlooked. The Navy's letter awarding him the Bronze Star stated he exhibited “great personal courage under fire” in rescuing an Army Green Beret Lieutenant, who recommended Kerry for the decoration and who has publicly disputed the sailor’s account. He said Kerry wrote the report that was the basis for the citation even though another officer, Lt. Cmdr. George Elliot, signed the document.

In response the Kerry campaign published its own ad that featured the Green Beret Lt., a registered Republican, saying Kerry saved his life, “All these Viet Cong were shooting at me, I expected I'd be shot. When he pulled me out of the river, he risked his life to save mine.”

I feared the Republican deceptive tricks could detract from Kerry’s campaign and mislead the public. At this time our eldest son was a resident neurosurgeon at Case Western University Hospital and participated in organizing the “Doctor’s for Kerry” group in Cleveland. He and his wife, a resident pediatrician at the same hospital, had first row seats for Kerry’s final speech before Election Day. These hopeful family members with others tried their best to counter the Bush-Cheney-Rove machine ironically in the very city where I was indoctrinated in failed Vietnam policies. I thought our country faced a moment of immense importance. Could these false advertisements mislead enough people to allow the Bush administration to continue ravaging the Middle East and expose our military to more needless death while the depleting the treasury of the reserves the Clinton presidency established with a balanced budget? Isn’t this as bad as Vietnam? Kerry reminded us during his speech before the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations April 23, 1971, “Someone has to die so that President Nixon won't be, and these are his words, 'The first President to lose a war.' We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

How appropriate were those words to the conflict in Iraq? How can the American people be misled by presidents and their administrations who so flagrantly trample upon the cherished principles of honesty, integrity, and the concept that war is always the last resort when all peaceful avenues have been exhausted? I was outraged when I learned that the Gulf of Tonkin resolution fabricated a phantom attack on the high seas to a docile and believing Congress in order to escalate the Vietnam debacle that sent more than 58,000 of our military to their death, not to mention the two million Vietnamese killed. Here we go again in Iraq I thought, unless the American people can withstand the fraudulent Republican campaign that will use any artifice to maintain their hammerlock on power.

Convinced because the Bush administration had committed themselves to “Shock and Awe” in the beginning of this war they were the single most dangerous crowd on earth, I recalled a famous Mahatma Gandhi quotation: “The Roots of Violence: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, Politics without principles.” Gandhi's words fit the Bush-Cheney-Rove team like a glove. My civil rights background, years of struggling against mean-spirited people and institutions like the military,  flashed before me as a reminder that all of us must do whatever we can to prevent powerful forces from destroying values we cherish in our society. If Bush won the election, I thought a most disastrous future awaited the world for the next four years. While I enjoyed the wonderful tailgate party, not even the aroma of garlic, herbs, fresh oysters and clam chowder and Bloody Mary cocktails, deflected me from my feeling of doom hanging over the upcoming election like a tidal wave ready to sweep away the gentle people committed to non-violence.

(Joan , Dan, and Kathy Lyndon at Tecumseh Statue taken by Denny Lyndon--click to zoom)

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Plebe Summer

                          (Click on images to expand) On July 5, 1960, Naval Academy discipline became my world. My father drove me to the front gate and wished me luck. Following the appointment letter warnings, I brought a shaving kit with toothpaste, comb, and watch. At the front gate a Marine guard let me enter after he saw my authorization letter. Walking toward the largest dormitory in the world in a yellow-brick courtyard, home to nearly four thousand midshipmen, passing cannons that protected the massive stone structure, I climbed the concrete steps to tall doors and entered Bancroft Hall. Awe-struck by the marble floors, arched ceilings, and expansiveness, could I survive this challenge?     A sign directed me to a room where and enlisted man handed me a large canvas bag to carry my new equipment: tee shirts, skivvies, socks, white sailor jumpers, trousers, rain gear, white sailor hats with blue trim, navy blue shorts, Naval Academy shirt, sweatshirt, sweat pants, tennis shoes, drill shoes, leggings, and towels. My first military haircut occurred after I joined the end of a long line of plebes. At my assigned room, I brought my initial issue and met my new roommates for the summer. Tall and husky George Sefcik from New Jersey confessed, “I was lucky the Academy took me, hope to survive the academics, and want to make the boxing team.”Short and scholarly, George Detman from Massachusetts had a strong interest in naval history and was a good bet to graduate. I introduced myself and said, “My Dad and brother graduated from the Academy. I left Duke as a sophomore to come here.”The Academy issued me stencils with my laundry number “4473” that I carefully filled in with indelible black ink on my white sailor jumpers along with my other stencil: “LAVERY, D.C.” that soon appeared on all my tee shirts, clothes, and laundry bag. When the announcement blared over the loudspeaker system: “Plebes assemble in front of Bancroft Hall parade area for the annual swearing-in ceremony,” I hustled to the spot with a new-found pride in the naval uniform my father, brother, and I wore. This was the oath that I had refused two years earlier at Duke. It marked the official turning point for every plebe and first year freshman in any ROTC program when we became wedded to military service for at least eight years. The Naval Academy Band played the Star Spangled Banner and the Commandant of Midshipmen, Admiral Charles Kirkpatrick, gave a patriotic speech. At the end he asserted, “You can do whatever you set your mind to.” Each midshipman with raised right arm recited, “I solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” Upon our return to Bancroft Hall, our second class platoon leaders immediately attacked George for the way he wore his uniform, shined his shoes, folded his clothing, and stored it in his locker—he always fell short of the standards they required.                      Our platoon leader was skinny, medium height, and had a German accent. He immaculately squared-away his uniform, spit-shined his shoes with a sparkle, and had a military bearing with an arrogant flare. He usually spoke clearly, but occasionally his accent made it difficult to understand his commands. Our first introduction to him occurred at the noon meal formation. We straggled to the location in front of Bancroft Hall where each platoon commander had a sign indicating the number of his platoon. Midshipman Lindenstruth stood erect at the front of my platoon. I saluted him as Chip had instructed me, “I request permission to speak.” “Speak plebe.” “This is my assigned platoon, sir. Where should I go from here?” “Start a line here, Plebe,” pointing to a spot on the ground next to where he placed his left spit-shined black drill shoe.   Tall George nicknamed our leader “Struts” in conversations between roommates. Struts gave us his introductory speech: “As plebes, you may not speak unless you first ask permission to do so when you want to talk with any upper-classman. Always line up in the same order I assigned you when doing drills or preparing to march into Bancroft Hall to eat at the mess hall. The Academy will indoctrinate you into a naval career that depends on discipline. You must always have an impeccable appearance, and follow orders precisely as given. Some of you won’t complete plebe summer because many plebes are not officer material. Every year plebes that meet the high standards for entrance into the Academy are "bilged" (flunked) for poor discipline, too many absences, or poor performance on tests from academics to physical fitness.”   Our typical day began at 6:15 AM when a bugle sounded reveille on the loudspeaker system throughout Bancroft Hall followed by a series of shrill bells. We immediately arose from our beds, got dressed in the uniform-of-the-day and stood at attention outside our rooms lined up with our backs against the bulkhead (wall). Our platoon commander inspected us and took roll call. If any plebe failed to spit-shine his shoes, “square away” any part of the uniform, or arrived late to the formation, the platoon commander would charge him with five demerits for each offense. Five demerits meant one hour of marching before reveille, or after classes. The platoon commander marched us into the mess hall for breakfast when the inspection concluded. We marched to our assigned table for ten and stood silently at attention behind our seats for a prayer from the Chaplain.                           After breakfast, our leader marched us to the armory to pick up M-1 rifles for drill practice. Midshipman Lindenstruth made these drills demanding. Extreme heat and high humidity characterized the weather that summer, which added to the difficulty of any prolonged physical activity. After about two hours of drilling the first day, sweat covered my face and rolled into my eyes; but our day had just begun. We also studied naval history, learned sailing, practiced knot tying, endured strenuous physical fitness exercises (PT), and participated in Yard Patrol (YP) boat drills.                     For sailing instruction, they randomly joined us with four plebes. They taught us the Rules of the Road and how to sail with a qualified instructor. Then they left us alone so we could try to develop our skill. They tested any crew that indicated they were ready to qualify. Each plebe had to pass for any crew to check out a sailboat. Unfortunately, two of the plebes in my crew prevented us from qualifying by their lack of skill. The knot tying course introduced us to knots seaman have used for years while also demonstrating contemporary variations.   PT (physical training) involved a number of activities, including a timed obstacle course that we ran until we tested successfully. Our swimming instructor, “Heinz” Lenz, had an Olympic background from Germany. His strong accent rang out as he instructed the backstroke with his words echoing through the Olympic sized pool, “Up, out und togeda.” The command “up” meant to pull your knees and hands up to your chest with your head laid flat and eyes looking to the ceiling of the indoor pool while swimming on your back. “Out” meant to spread your legs and extend your arms straight out wide to the right and left side in a coordinated rhythmical motion. Finally the “together” meant to thrust the legs and arms quickly in the same rhythm to shoot your body swiftly threw the water. “Dis stroke vas the best stroke for survival if stranded at sea. Many people who had fallen or washed overboard successfully reached safety by using dis rhythmical stroke. One could maintain dis stroke longa than any uddah.” Eventually, each midshipman had to swim a mile in a certain time to graduate from the Academy. Failing any of these fitness tests could constitute grounds for dismissal from the Academy. I scored the highest score of 4.0 on the obstacle course that showed my instructors and classmates I could excel in something else besides baseball.   Powerful yard patrol boats, YP’s, or what some midshipman comically referred to as “Yipees,” gave each midshipman an opportunity to learn the art of ship handling. We always marched in formation by our summer plebe platoons to arrive at the dock where four YP’s docked with a naval officer as our instructor for navigation, more Rules of the Road, horn and flag signals, and night lighting for determining direction and general speed of any nearby vessel. Red lights indicated the port (left) side of the vessel while, green lights signified the starboard (right) side. We spent hours reading radar and charting position, learning commands to the helmsman such as “Right full rudder”, “All ahead full”, “All back full,” and other variations, moving the YP where desired. We memorized commands, learned the equipment, and became proficient boat handlers. YP training was no pleasure cruise. The instructors severely criticized many plebes for the slightest error in judgment because a moving vessel on water takes an inordinate amount of time to maneuver in contrast to a vehicle on land. The danger of inaccurately estimating the movement of a vessel at sea can cause extensive damage, as well as injury to passengers. Our intense course qualified as one of the most practical we had given  the profession we would enter upon graduation. I looked forward to the drill away from upper class harassment that showed an investment the Navy made unavailable at any university. The drills stressed me at the beginning until I understood each one. Rifle range was unique. We checked out an M-1 rifle from the armory and got into formation. On our first day for rifle range one of the second classman in charge of another platoon walked up to us, “Mr. Lindenstruth can’t attend today so I’ll take charge of both platoons,” he barked. He showed off his particular penchant for harassment by making plebes run with their rifle at high port. We held the rifle over our head with both arms extended in an awkward position given the weight of the rifle and ran to his designated location. He came up to me and two other plebes from my platoon, “You three plebes run over to that light pole at high port and count the number of flies on it; run back and report that number to me. Don’t speak to each other, shitheads. You better all agree.” The pole stood one hundred and fifty yards away at the end of the parade field. I ran as fast as I could at high port. Exhausted by the time I returned back  first, “There were no flies on the pole, sir, ” I said. The others reported the same shortly. Each of us had difficulty trying to catch our breath and sweat covered our faces in the humid heat. I considered the drill hazing that demonstrated some upper-classmen relished their power to force plebes to do meaningless tasks. My brother warned, “A number of cruel people received appointments to Annapolis. As a plebe  try to avoid them whenever possible.” (Click on photo to zoom)

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