Skip to comments.Soldier with Kerry in '68 says he earned first medal
Posted on 08/21/2004 6:27:02 AM PDT by John Jorsett
Trotwood, Ohio - An Ohio factory worker who was with John Kerry on a dangerous night mission 36 years ago in Vietnam said he has no doubt Kerry was grazed in a firefight and deserves his first Purple Heart for a combat injury.
"We were on about a 14-foot boat with an outboard motor. We started out, taking a guess, around 10 p.m. We were sup posed to sneak up and check sampans," said Pat Runyon, a 58-year-old grandfather from Eaton, a small southwestern Ohio town near the Indiana border.
Runyon, an enlisted man who served on Swift boats in Vietnam, was not a regular member of Kerry's crew.
He said in an interview Sunday he somehow was chosen - "Let me tell you, I didn't volunteer" - to go out on the Dec. 2, 1968, mission, called a "skim op" in Navy slang.
The small, flat-bottomed boat - Runyon called it a "skimmer" - carried three men - Kerry in command, Bill Zaledonis on a machine gun and Runyon operating the outboard motor.
Once in place on the river, the three U.S. sailors paddled and drifted. Covered by the darkness, they hid to stop sampans, small vessels common in Southeast Asia. Guerillas used the sampans to smuggle weapons in the Mekong River Delta.
Runyon said Kerry was wounded after one vessel tried to avoid an inspection.
"Lt. Kerry said, 'I'm going to pop a flare, and when I do, I want that engine started,' " Runyon said. But the outboard would not crank. Meanwhile, the sampan's crew steered it to the riverbank, and people started running on the shore. Runyon said shooting broke out.
Somehow, Kerry's weapon stopped firing. Runyon thinks he ran out of ammunition. He said Kerry bent down to pick up another gun and got hit in the arm.
"It wasn't a serious wound," Runyon said, and Kerry was able to start shooting again. When the firefight was over, Runyon said Kerry told him all he felt was a "burning sensation."
Runyon said he remembers the incident clearly because it was the first time he had been in combat. "I hadn't seen any kind of action or anything," he said.
He said Kerry, Zaledonis and himself were the only men aboard. When he got the motor started, they took off. He said the outboard was in bad condition and did not have a handle to steer with. "I had to wrap my arms around it, like hugging it, to turn it," he recalled.
Runyon now works the second shift at a plant that makes auto parts in Eaton. He works in the shipping department.
He is supporting Democratic nominee Kerry for president, but said he is not a Democrat and has never been active in politics. He said he and Kerry met for the first time since that night in 1968 at a rally in Dayton this year.
Runyon said he introduced himself to the Massachusetts senator and Kerry did not remember him. "When I talked to him about that night, he remembered the incident but not my name. He just eased up once he knew I was who I said I was."
Runyon was at a Democratic picnic Sunday in Trotwood, a Dayton suburb, where he told the small gathering of party activists that an anti-Kerry veterans group was smearing the senator with false charges. "It's very poor to try and discredit him after  years," Runyon said. "That's very poor."
Runyon said that firefight with Kerry is his brush with fame.
"I saw a nice, quiet guy who knew he was in command and didn't flaunt it. He could make a decision, and he made the right one because we got out of there alive. That's all I can tell you."
All Kerry has to do is sign the SF-180 and let the Medical Records speak for the injury.
LOL! Why does he flaunt it to this day?
Daschle would say "The timing of this is very curious."
Amazing. They can't even mention that this entire episode is in dispute by the Commander of the Swift Boats as well Schachte, who says he was there (and letter went on to become Judge Advocate General of the Navy)? Amazing.
Darn it! You beat me to it!
How about that!? Kerry is due for a fourth Purple Heart he didn't even put in for!!!! </Knee_Padder_mode>
Kerry's band o' brothers can't keep their stories straight.
That's what I was wondering about too. The records ought to be easily checked. The application for the Purple Heart contains the circumstances under which the applicant was wounded. The fact that this story was published on Aug 16th and hasn't been noted elsewhere makes me suspect that it doesn't hold up under scrutiny, or Kerry'd be shouting it from the rooftops about now.
Given the source, the SBVFT need to respond to this. Runyon is listed on page 35 of Unfit for Command. Runyon's testimony runs counter to what ADM Schachte says. He was the OIC on board the skimmer.
Hugh Hewitt has taken to calling him Senator Sybil. Very apt, I think.
Could you please state the source for that. It was at night according to all reports I have ever read.
Yes, he was "in command" of the swiftboat he was in.
But Kerry's diary disputes this story. I suspect another paid supporter.
Wouldn't this be seared in his memory?
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