Journalists drooled over the vision of a Kerry candidacy: an aristocratic background, both Irish and Yankee (in this state, an unbeatable combination), St. Paul's School and Yale University graduate, handsome, poised, an excellent speaker, a decorated veteran, and those initials – JFK.

Above all, John Kerry was a hero. He was the first hero the peace movement had produced for general consumption. Because of his leadership of the veterans (some vets would say "Despite"), he had somehow managed to strike a responsive chord out there in middle America.

A week after the political analysts began having their field day, another country was heard from. Rumors and snide comments, mostly emanating from within the peace movement, began to circulate: Adam Walinsky, the Kennedy staffer, actually had written that speech; the veterans were disgusted that Kerry had stolen the show; Kerry was just another politician trying to use the war to get ahead.

John Kerry winced when informed of the last rumor. "After being over there, in Vietnam, it's impossible for me to think of using the war to advance myself. The war is so disgusting to me – it's probably hard for someone who hasn't been there to understand it – that I could never think of using it. I just want it over."

And yet, some members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War think Kerry is using them to further his own interests, although those who worked closely with him aren't so harsh. Contrary to the rumors, they don't hate John Kerry. But they're not too pleased with him either.

"Sure there was some resentment after it was over," said Marv Gross of the VVAW Cambridge office. "There were vets who'd been trying to be heard for a long time before we went to Washington, but no one would listen.

"I guess the thing that disturbed a lot of us was that after his speech, everyone was talking about John Kerry and they forgot what the veterans were trying to say.

"But when you come right down to it, John Kerry did for us what people say we did for the peace movement. He enabled us to reach people we hadn't dreamed of reaching before."

Bestor Cram, another member of the group, said, "I'm a lot angrier at the media than at John Kerry. He projected the type of image they wanted so they used him, even though the image may not be representative of what the VVAW is all about. I think the media's been using John more than he's used them."

The long black limousine seemed out of place in front of John Kerry's modest home. It was waiting like an omen to carry him to a black-tie banquet at the Pleasant Valley Country Club in Worcester, sponsored by the Jaycees and honoring their "Yen Outstanding Youth Leaders" of 1971. The driver's name was Wayne Thomas, a dedicated suture salesman and Jaycee, who explained the car was borrowed from a local funeral parlor.

Kerry came down the stairs in his tuxedo, and tried to appear as if the monkey suit made him uncomfortable. "Can you handle this?" he asked. "I hate wearing this kind of thing. It's so hypocritical."

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  Topics: Flashbacks , Boston Globe, JFK, Kerry
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