Good afternoon brothers and sisters. My name is Steve Pitkin. I'm here today for two reasons -- to tell you the truth about what happened in the Winter Soldier Investigation 33 years ago, and to apologize to you for what I did there.
Like many of you, I fought in Vietnam. And like many of you, I came home to find that wearing a Class A uniform in public was an invitation to abuse. I joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War because I wanted to find other veterans I could talk to about my experiences, and because I was angry with the government for fighting a war it had no intention of winning. I had no idea that the national leadership of the VVAW was meeting with the North Vietnamese and Vietcong and repeating their talking points.
In January of 1971, I rode to Detroit with John Kerry and Scott Camil for the "Winter Soldier Investigation." The second day I was there, Kerry and the other leaders told me they wanted me to testify. They knew I was one of the very few real combat veterans in the room. I told them I didn't have anything to say. Kerry said, "Surely you've seen some of the atrocities."
I kept saying "no" and the mood turned ugly. One of the other leaders whispered to me, "It's a long walk back to Baltimore." I'm not proud of this, but I finally agreed to speak. They told me what to talk about -- American troops beating civilians and prisoners, shelling and destroying villages for no reason, and acts of racism against the Vietnamese.
John Kerry knew that the Winter Soldier testimony was a pack of lies. I know, because I was there, and I told some of those lies. You can read the rest of my testimony, and my legal affidavit, on WinterSoldier.com.
After I left the VVAW and I went back into the military, I retired with 32 years of total service. 21 1/2 of those were active duty. Today I want to apologize to you all and ask for your forgiveness.
Sometimes the truth hurts, before you can begin to heal.
Lieutenant Kerry, now's your turn!
-- Steven J. Pitkin, September 12, 2004