Press Statement

MAY 4, 2001

No. 01-06 
301 585-4000
Contact: Jim Greene


To VVA members and fellow veterans:

The recent admission of former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey that his SEAL team killed unarmed old men, women, and children in a commando raid during the Vietnam War has captured headlines, here and abroad.

Because Kerrey--now a college president in New York--is a public figure and decorated hero, this was news and I have no qualms about reporting it. However, some in the media have taken an overly dramatic approach to the story.  Expressing shock or amazement that unarmed civilians were killed in a firefight is disingenuous at best and morally unjustifiable at worst.  Unfortunately, civilians are killed in every war.  That is the nature of warfare.  In Vietnam, the enemy often wore no uniforms, and many women and children were Viet Cong.

Nearly 60 percent of the world’s population was not born at the time of this 1969 incident.  Many younger Americans may now think--as many Americans thought during that war--that our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines were indiscriminate killers.  That image, often promoted by the newspapers, television, and the movies, left an indelible mark on many who served.  It caused great physical and emotional pain to a whole generation of Americans who served honorably in that war.  Dredging up that imagery after all these years serves no useful moral or historical purpose.

As a veterans service organization serving the 8.5 million Vietnam-era veterans and their families, VVA will not pass judgment on Kerrey’s actions other than to say that as the commander of the squad his first duty was to protect his men while attempting to carry out his assignment.  Many of our ground combat veterans, while not experiencing exactly what Kerrey and his team experienced, know the horrors of small-unit actions.

Kerrey has said sometimes it is easier to die for your country than to kill for your country.  He and his squad will continue to suffer from the combat experience in Vietnam for the rest of their lives.



George C. Duggins
National President

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Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families.  VVA's founding principle is 
"Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another."   


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