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Kerry's mother, Rosemary, grew up in the tradition of the patricians—the br /ahmins—or Protestant establishment of New England. Her maiden name was Forbes, and she grew up as a descendant of the Forbes and Winthrop families. A major element of the patricians' unwritten moral code is that one should participate in public affairs, and son John complied.

At Yale he served as president of the Yale Political Union and a leader of the debate team. During his senior year, Kerry signed up in late 1965 to join the U.S. Navy, with the expectation that he would serve in Vietnam. Kerry served in the U.S. Navy from August 1966 to January 1970.

By 1968 he was training to be a skipper on a swift boat in the rivers, canals, and waterways of Vietnam. It was during his four months as captain of two different swift boats that he performed heroic service. He earned three Purple Hearts, a br /onze Star, and a Silver Star. Kerry earned one of those Purple Hearts after saving the life of a U.S. Army Special Forces officer, Jim Rassmann.

Still, Kerry has given conflicting accounts of why he served in Vietnam. In the 1998 interview with American Windsurfer he imputed no religious meaning to it. Yet in an early July speech to the African Methodist Episcopal convention he did. Summarizing President Clinton's endorsement of Kerry's candidacy, in which Clinton invoked the Prophet Isaiah, Kerry said, "Whenever there was a call to service in war or in peace, I have always answered that call."

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This article is a sidebar to John Kerry's Open Mind | The candidate has roots in liberal Catholicism, establishment Protestantism, and secular idealism.

Other Christianity Today articles on John Kerry and the Democratic party from our Election 2004 ...

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Not Far from the Brahmin Tree
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October 2004

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