Regarding the Aug. 18 op-ed article by William McSweeny, "No Debating a Sense of Duty": Like Mr. McSweeny, I am of the Korean War generation, and my brothers and I served during that war. I believe there is honor in debating Sen. John Kerry's military service -- especially how it relates to his role in the Vietnam antiwar movement. As part of that movement, he dishonored me, my brothers and all those in the military who served and sacrificed in this country's wars.

I am the grandfather of 15 children. What do I tell them when they ask me about going into the service?

If there is a draft, I'll ask if it is fair and without college deferments. I also will tell them about the Vietnam War that was lost, in part, by antiwar demonstrators, a war after which their great uncle Steve was thanked for his service by being spit on.

I will tell them about their great uncle Bob, an infantry rifleman, who fought in the rice paddies and jungles of South Vietnam. I will tell them what I think of John Kerry. They will then have to make their own decisions, as my brothers and I did, and do the honorable thing.

ALBERT J. ONDRISH SR.

Fulton

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Linda M. Cole contended that Sen. John Kerry's use of his combat experience in Vietnam distastefully politicizes our military and threatens U.S. political stability [letters, Aug. 13].

But Mr. Kerry is using his combat experience to respond to the persistent and false Republican claims that Democrats are weak on defense and bad for the military. If the Republicans were not so effective at spreading this propaganda, Mr. Kerry would not have to respond in the way he does.

Recall during Bill Clinton's first campaign how much was made of the fact that the candidate considered ways to avoid the draft. Now Republicans don't seem interested in President Bush's avoidance of the draft or his possible absence from duty. Doesn't this suggest a politicization of the military?

MARK GOODMAN

Annapolis

Linda Cole said that all the veterans who have sought the presidency in her lifetime served longer than Sen. John Kerry.

However, Sen. Kerry's three years and eight months of service -- August 1966 to March 1970 -- is longer than that of Army vets Al Gore and Michael Dukakis and fellow Navy Vietnam vet Bob Kerrey. It also is longer than the World War II service terms of George McGovern and the other JFK (by about a month).

Ms. Cole also criticized Mr. Kerry for emphasizing his military service. But he follows a well-worn path. John F. Kennedy rode his PT-109 service into Congress and into the presidency, mailing out booklets describing it during the 1960 campaign. Theodore Roosevelt's charge up San Juan Hill took him into the governor's mansion in Albany and then to the vice presidency. Skipping those Civil War and Mexican War vets who ran and won, William Henry Harrison had his "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" motto, Andrew Jackson had the battle of New Orleans and, first of them all, George Washington, set the precedent.

BILL HARSHAW

Reston

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Larry Thurlow, the man behind the attacks on Sen. John Kerry's record, says he doesn't remember what was on his citation when he received a Bronze Star for service in Vietnam [front page, Aug. 19, 20]. He says he does not remember that he received the award for actions taken while the five-boat flotilla was under fire.

This is difficult to believe, especially considering that Mr. Thurlow refused to release his military records and the revelation came only through a Freedom of Information Act request by The Post.

Given that Mr. Thurlow received an award for the same conduct as Mr. Kerry, it seems that his attacks on Mr. Kerry are disingenuous, at least. Otherwise, Mr. Thurlow should do the right thing and give his Bronze Star back.

STEVE HOLCOMB

Gambrills