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Senator Cherishes Parents' Sense of Duty

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It's midnight in the Gulf of Maine and wind shrieking through the rigging overwhelms all shouts.

Fog, crude-oil thick, smothers any flicker of light. And walls of water bulldozing the bow drive some of the crew to safety below deck.

But Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts remembers during the three-day stormy regatta from Marblehead, Mass. to Nova Scotia how his father, Richard, kept a cool head and skippered their sloop to victory.

"It was very hairy, demanding, trying ... and he was just steady as the rock," says Senator Kerry: "I learned how to keep steadiness at the helm with others losing their heads around you."

Kerry took an unwavering hand to very different waters - Vietnam's Mekong River Delta - for a very different endeavor: war. He commanded a Navy "swift boat," battling Vietcong guerrillas as they fired from among dense riverbank grasses.

Kerry returned from the Vietnam War in 1969 with three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a Silver Star - the latter for pulling a crewman from the river in a shower of bullets.

But keeping a sure hand under fire is not the lesson Kerry most cherishes from his father - and mother. Rather, it's their sense of civic duty.

"Both my father and my mother were very conscious of public responsibility and the importance of being involved in the community," Kerry says: "When I was growing up the dinner table talk of issues and concerns of the world and basic values was very important."

Both parents served on town councils, planning boards, conservation groups, or other local committees. His mother, Rosemary, was a Girl Scout volunteer for 50 years. "They both were involved in the nuts and bolts, nitty gritty kind of things that make a difference," Kerry says.


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