BROCKTON, Mass. – Gray-haired Patrick Barnes still wears a crew cut and sits ramrod straight in his chair. Before clamping his cell phone shut, he says “Semper Fi” to a buddy instead of “bye.”
Barnes, a 58-year-old Marine veteran of Vietnam who earned a Purple Heart for wounds suffered during the 1968 Tet Offensive, is still military through and through. And he knows that in war, things happen “Boom!” – just like that – and triggers are pulled in split-second decisions.
That’s why Barnes and fellow Vietnam veterans are starting a legal defense fund for Americans charged with war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We’re not concerned with guilt or innocence,” he said. “We just want to make sure they have the best defense possible. Sitting here in Brockton or Quincy or New York or California, we don’t know what happened.”
Other similar defense funds have been sprung up. The mother of a Marine from New York who was cleared of murder charges created a fund, as did a group led by a retired Marine officer in Greensboro, N.C., who was twice wounded in Vietnam.
The funds have been set up in reaction to a series of cases in which U.S. servicemen have been charged with murder.