Swiftboat Vet: Kerry Unfairly Criticized

As a young boatswain in the Navy, Fred Burns spent many days aboard fast patrol craft called swiftboats. Usually with six man crews, the boats zipped up and down the rivers through the jungles of South Vietnam looking for the enemy. Burns was assigned to the same boat as an officer named John Kerry.

"To my best recollection I did three combat patrols with Kerry," Burns says.

Serving on the same boat was as close as the two men got. Burns says the difference in their ranks kept them from mingling.

"The only time we would have been together would have been on patrols and such as that."

Burns was wounded and decorated for his service. So was Kerry. He was shot and received three purple hearts.

Burns says Kerry deserved those honors, despite some swiftboat veterans who publicly questioned and criticized Kerry's service.

"Some people's recollections 35 years later can be distorted. I'm not sayin' they're falsehoods, I'm sayin' they might be distorted. In my heart I believe the guy did what he was supposed to do for his country and deserved what he got."

Burns retired in 1981, never stayed in touch with his fellow sailors, and put all his old pictures and newspaper articles away in a box.

Burns won't say if he supports Kerry for President. But he says he knows who he's voting for.

"I have made up my mind, very firm made up my mind but that's my business.  It's not for me to sit here and try to convince anybody else that they should vote the same way I vote."