Kristinn Taylor's Aug. 13 letter gave an incorrect date for a speech Sen. John F. Kerry gave on the Senate floor regarding his military service during the Vietnam War. He made the speech on March 27, 1986. (Published 8/16/04)

The dust-up about whether Sen. John F. Kerry inflated his service record threatens to obscure a larger issue: the extent to which the Kerry campaign has politicized the military. Mr. Kerry has made his time in Vietnam the centerpiece of his campaign. He travels with a "band of brothers" and placed uniformed veterans in conspicuous positions at his nominating convention. He flaunts his medals and salutes civilian audiences.

Other veterans, who find this behavior distasteful, have produced an anti-Kerry ad. Then, John McCain attacked the attackers [front page, Aug. 6]. This is a poisonous situation.

America's enviable political stability rests in part upon the fact that we have an apolitical military that operates under civilian control. In my lifetime many veterans have sought the presidency: Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, George S. McGovern, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Michael S. Dukakis, Bob Dole, Al Gore, John McCain and Bob Kerrey .

All served longer than Mr. Kerry, and some suffered serious injuries. But not one traveled with a cadre of former servicemen or implied that the military endorsed his bid to become commander in chief. Kennedy famously deflected the reporter's question about his heroism with the comment, "It was involuntary. They sank my boat."

Mr. Kerry began this process of dividing retired military personnel into warring political camps. He should end it. It is his present conduct, not anything he did or didn't do 35 years ago, that raises questions about his fitness to serve as commander in chief.

LINDA M. COLE

Bethesda

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Robert D. Novak's discussion of John E. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi's book, "Unfit for Command" ["Veterans Against Kerry," op-ed, Aug. 9], attempted to portray the authors and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as just a group of concerned Americans. Mr. O'Neill, in particular, said he is no Bush partisan. Mr. Novak's bottom line is that it is up to Mr. Kerry to release documents that have been "demanded by his critics."

But Mr. Novak did not mention that Mr. O'Neill was selected by Charles Colson in President Richard Nixon's White House in 1971 to counter the national popularity Mr. Kerry had gained by his opposition to the Vietnam War. The two men debated on Dick Cavett's talk show, Mr. O'Neill sporting the crew cut of a former Navy officer and Mr. Kerry the long-haired war protester.

Mr. O'Neill also was a clerk for Nixon Supreme Court appointee William H. Rehnquist. He further was considered for a federal judgeship vacancy by George H.W. Bush. Whatever Mr. O'Neill's politics are now -- he said he would have supported John Edwards for president -- they certainly were skewed toward the Nixon-Bush nexus.

ROBERT J. MURAWSKI

Arlington

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The Aug. 12 editorial "Swift Boat Smears" said, "Mr. Kerry's four-plus months in Vietnam made for an unusually short tour. "Mr. Kerry served in Vietnam from November 1968 to April 1969. He had already served a 12-month combat tour and was due to rotate home when he volunteered for a second 12-month combat tour on Swift boats, so the four months referred to in the editorial were part of the second tour. For confirmation, one need only to refer to John Kerry's Statement of Service, which indicates his service was one year, seven months.

CORINNE A. MARASCO

Kingstowne

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The Aug. 12 editorial did not mention one charge that gives credence to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth: that Sen. John F. Kerry lied when he repeatedly stated that he was on a mission in Cambodia on Christmas Day, 1968. In a floor speech in the Senate on March 17, 1986, Mr. Kerry said the memory of being in Cambodia that day was "seared" in him.

Now that he has been challenged on that by his fellow officers, Mr. Kerry, through a spokesman, says his seared memory is now a "mistaken recollection" and he's not sure where he was that day. His fellow officers say that they and he were 50 miles away at Sa Dec on the Mekong River. Mr. Kerry has been proven to have spoken falsely about one major aspect of his service that he has used to score political points. Rather than pointing an accusatory finger at Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, The Post should give Mr. Kerry's record the thorough vetting Americans need before they decide this year's presidential contest.

KRISTINN TAYLOR

Washington