Kerry's rescued crew mate to visit



The president may make a brief stop Saturday in the Mahoning Valley.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Jim Rassman, who credits John Kerry with saving his life 35 years ago during the Vietnam War, will speak Friday in the Mahoning Valley on behalf of the Democratic presidential nominee.
Also, President Bush may make a brief stop Saturday in the Valley.
Nothing is confirmed about a Bush stop, but Craig Bonar, Trumbull County GOP chairman, said the president may land Saturday at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna Township.
Mark Munroe, Mahoning County's Bush-Cheney campaign chairman, said he's heard the same rumor.
Bush's official itinerary for Saturday calls for bus tour stops in Cleveland, somewhere in Lake County, and Erie, Pa. On Friday, his schedule includes visits to Scranton, Pa.; Milwaukee, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Rassman's visit
Rassman is expected to speak Friday morning, probably at a union hall in Mahoning County, but details have not been finalized, said Lisa Antonini, county Democratic chairwoman.
The speech will come the day after the Republican National Convention concludes in New York City.
"It's going to be great, and we're excited about it," Antonini said.
Rassman was among the dozen members of Kerry's Swift boat crew to stand on stage with the presidential candidate during his acceptance speech at last month's Democratic National Convention.
A few minutes before Kerry's speech, Rassman addressed the delegates.
"Let me say something important right up front: Nobody asked me to join the campaign," he said. "I volunteered. And not just because 35 years ago, John Kerry saved my life. I volunteered because I've seen John Kerry in action. I know his character. I've witnessed his bravery and leadership under fire, and I know he will be a great commander in chief."
In an Aug. 10 letter to The Wall Street Journal, Rassman wrote that Kerry saved his life March 13, 1969, when an explosion blew him off a Swift boat. In the letter, Rassman wrote that Kerry must have seen him in the water, and directed the boat's driver to turn around and retrieve him.
"Because I was nearly upside down, I couldn't make it over the edge of the deck," he wrote. "This left me hanging out in the open, a perfect target. John, already wounded by the explosion that threw me off his boat, came out onto the bow, exposing himself to the fire directly at us from the jungle, and pulled me aboard."
Silver Star
Rassman, who lives in Florence, Ore., recommended Kerry for a Silver Star for bravery under fire, and Kerry received it.
Rassman, a lifelong Republican and a retired lieutenant with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, came forward shortly before the Iowa caucus, a move some political observers say gave Kerry the needed push to be his party's presidential nominee.
Television and radio advertisements from the Swift Boat Veterans for Bush, which ran in the Youngstown market, have criticized Kerry's service in Vietnam. Rassman said the Republican-financed group, consisting of those on a nearby Swift boat during the episode, lied about Kerry's Vietnam record.
skolnick@vindy.com

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