James R. Wasser at DuPage Democrats meeting

John Kerry’s second in command in Viet Nam on PCF-44, spoke at tonight’s DuPage Democrats meeting. Wasser was one of the 13 men who fought alongside Kerry in Viet Nam who was on the podium with Kerry at the Democratic National Convention last month, and talked for over an hour about his impressions of Senator Kerry.

Wasser is not a polished politician, which in tonight’s case was a good thing. Rather than coming off as a slick, packaged spokesman, Wasser came across as the real deal: a union electrician from Kankakee, Illinois, who feels that to stand alongside John Kerry now is to stand alongside a fellow veteran and soldier he stood with over 35 years ago.

He’s apparently gone toe to toe with a number of the Swift Boat Vets for Truth, on Hannity and Colmes, Fox & Friends, and other shows. It would be fun to see him in those arenas, as I have a feeling his conviction and straightforward approach present well.

What struck me most was how personally he took the SBVFT claims. “When they attack his purple hearts, when they claim there was no enemy fire, they’re questioning my reputation and those of my men. That hurts.” He admitted to being angry when he saw Kerry testify before Congress in 1971, only to later realize (he said it was around 1974) that Kerry was right, and that he later respected Kerry for doing what he did. Today, he says, “If John Kerry walked through that door and said we had one mission left to fight, I’d follow him into hell. And I wouldn’t be alone.”

It will be interesting to see how tomorrow’s press reports on the story; Katie Foutz of the Naperville Sun was there, and WGN-TV televised the meeting. I think if they were looking for controversy, they’ll focus on his strong statements regarding the SBVFT; in one breath he’d say he doesn’t speak ill of other vets, only to then call John O’Neill a liar. (Wait a minute, this just in: that part’s true.)

Anyway, if they were looking for tales of bravery under fire, Wasser provided several. If they were looking for whether Wasser was the real deal, speaking from the heart about a man he clearly admires, they got that. We’ll see.

The room was pretty packed:

(Taken from my Motorola V600 camera phone.)

I respect all who serve our country honorably. By all accounts, Wasser is one of those men. It’s not often that you get to hear them speak of their experiences, and some of his very frank stories about “Charlie” surprised some in the audience, but spoke of bravery, and fear, and luck, and honor. I’m glad I went.

Update: Naperville Sun article here and Naperville Daily Herald article here.

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