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Kerry Vietnam Past to Loom Large at Dem Convention

The Democratic National Convention (search) will be filled with references to John Kerry's (search) public service, with particular emphasis in the wartime campaign on the Massachusetts senator's time in the military.

As the United States tries to repair relationships with its allies and braces for the possibility of another terrorist attack designed to disrupt the election, the Kerry campaign said Tuesday that the convention will be centered around the theme of "Stronger at Home, Respected in the World."

Kerry plans to cap the four-day gathering of more than 4,300 delegates with an acceptance speech outlining his vision to improve the nation's standing at home and abroad. But with many voters still unfamiliar with Kerry despite more than two years of campaigning, the convention also has been designed to help people get to know his biography, including his experience as prosecutor, lieutenant governor, senator and a decorated Naval officer in Vietnam.

Kerry's Thursday address is to be led by his children and some of his crewmates from his Navy swiftboat in Vietnam who have been familiar faces on the campaign trail. He is scheduled to be introduced by former Sen. Max Cleland (search) of Georgia.

Cleland, a fellow Vietnam veteran who lost three limbs during the war, was defeated in the 2002 election after Republicans questioned his patriotism. Cleland has been a political martyr of sorts for Kerry as he accuses Republicans of trying to tear down real American patriots.

Kerry told supporters at a fund-raiser Monday that he welcomes a debate about patriotism with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney (search).

"The flag of the United States of America that I fought under, that streamed out behind my gun turret, that has covered the coffins of friends, that flag doesn't belong to the president, it doesn't belong to a party, it doesn't belong to an ideology," Kerry said. "It is a symbol of the strength of a nation of diversity and tolerance, of a democracy that has dissent, alternative ideas and we are going to reclaim that flag for the United States of America."

The Kerry campaign said the opening night will highlight Kerry's platform. Speakers are to include former Presidents Carter and Clinton.

Tuesday night speakers are scheduled to include Teresa Heinz Kerry, who plans to highlight Kerry's biography and personal strengths, and Kerry's fellow Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy, a driving force in bringing the campaign to their hometown of Boston.

Wednesday, Kerry running mate John Edwards is to speak and the focus is to be on Kerry and Edwards leadership during a time of war and terrorism by building a strong military, alliances with other nations and support for police, fire fighters and other domestic responders.