- Kerry is a veteran of the Vietnam War
- He met a former enemy on Saturday, decades after they fought on opposite sides, and they shook hands
Kerry was a young US Navy officer at the time, in his mid-twenties, and the battle in the Mekong river earned him a Silver Star.
In his fourth visit to Vietnam as secretary of state, Kerry met with Vo Ban Tam, a 70-year-old veteran who was part of a team that ambushed the secretary’s Swift Boat in 1969. Through an interpreter, Ban Tam explained that he knew the man Kerry killed, it was his 24-year-old friend and fellow soldier, Ba Thanh.
Kerry and Ban Tam shook hands, and Kerry presented one of his commemorative Challenge Coins to Ban Tam.
“Today I met Vo Ban Tam, a former VC enemy who farms shrimp and crab on the same #Mekong river we once fought over,” Kerry tweeted, expressing how powerful it is that veterans from both sides can now get together and work on strengthening U.S. — Vietnam relations.
After his return from Vietnam, where he was also awarded the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts, Kerry became a leader of the group Vietnam Veterans Against the War, speaking to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and making headlines at a Washington protest by disposing of his medals on the Capitol lawn. He later admitted that the medals belonged to someone else.