Day, Kerrey tell reporters that Nation's response will be patient and violent by David Lias Retired U.S. Air Force Col. George Day minced no words when asked how America should respond to a wave of deadly terrorism Sept. 11.
"We need to be patient. Certainly the people who have executed this act need to be dealt with with a lot of violence, but we need to make sure we are dealing with the right people," Day said at a press conference Monday afternoon.
Day and former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey met briefly with the media at Old Main during a break in a day-long Korean War conference held on the USD campus.
"I think one of our most important responses needs to be patience, and when we are violent, we need to be very violent with and against the right people," Day said.
Kerrey told reporters that, in some ways, history is repeating itself.
"In the Korean conflict, there were a number of mistakes made right from the start, and they are worth noting because we overcame them," he said.
The U.S. wasn't prepared when it entered the Korean conflict, Kerrey said, and the nation isn't fully ready to wage a war against terrorism today.
The Korea experience also serves as reminder that a nation engaged in war must stay committed, he said.
The American people may not have been willing to stay the course in Korea, he said, if satellite television were available to show the 24th Division suffer its losses in July 1950 in South Korea.
In contrast, Kerrey said, television cameras were present in 1993 to record U.S. losses in Somalia and Mogadishu.
"We pulled out immediately, and probably contributed to some of the problems we now face," he said. "Osama bin Laden is organizing there, we know, against American forces."
Day, a 1949 University of South Dakota graduate who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, the National Guard and U.S. Air Force during a 30 year career that spanned three decades, voiced optimism while waiting for the nation's military response.
"I think it's important to understand what kind of team we have working for us in the executive branch," he said. "We have a vice president who basically was superintendent of the Gulf War. He is not oblivious to the ability to wage war and the obligations of the nation. He is a very experienced man."
The nation's secretary of defense, he added, is also well experienced, having served in that office in an earlier administration.
"We have a president who has been off to military training school where he learned to fly fighter planes. It tells you he has discipline," Day said. "This man is prepared by virtue of his training. If we allow these people to function to their fullest abilities, then we'll be in good hands."
"Terrorists are trying to get us to be terrorized, and it's important for the American people to be brave," Kerrey said. "Terrorists exploited a weakness that shouldn't have been there. You shouldn't be able to hijack four American planes loaded with jet fuel within 30 minutes of each other with pen knives and box cutters.
"We need to go about our business and trust that these vulnerabilities are going to be closed," he added.
Americans' attitudes about their country, he believes, have been positively changed by Sept. 11's terror.
"I've seen a great deal of healthy patriotism. It's not just coming from the greatest generation ever. There are young people volunteering near the impact zone," Kerrey said. "There are young people standing in line to donate blood. They are volunteering their services; there is a substantial increase in the number of people who want to participate, to be part of the solution."
Both Day and Kerrey are well-seasoned warriors. Day fought in the South Pacific during World War II, served two tours as an Air Force fighter-bomber pilot during the Korean War, and commanded an F-100 squadron in southeast Asia.
He spent over five years as a Vietnamese prisoner of war after his plane was shot down.
Kerrey, who served in Vietnam as a Navy SEAL, lost a leg during a heroic battle with enemy forces.
Both men were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
After the Pearl Harbor attack, literally every person rose, in some fashion, to that occasion, Day said. When Americans perceived that young men and women in the U.S. military were risking their lives in the Persian Gulf War, "the heart of the nation just enlarged and the masses rose to the occasion, also," Day said. "We have that innate concern about our country and family and all of those things that are dear to us when we have those sort of frontal attacks.
"The major problem here is to sustain that high level of juice that has been cranked up in our bodies," he added, "and make sure that two weeks from now we don't forget it."