Remembering Max Cleland, former senator and Vietnam War veteran

Former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland from Georgia, a Vietnam War veteran, died Tuesday at age 79 in Atlanta after suffering congestive heart failure. He lost three limbs in a hand grenade blast in Vietnam, and championed veterans' rights. John Yang reports.

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  • John Yang:

    Max Cleland's political career spanned four decades, stretching from his native Georgia to the U.S. Senate, and included time as President Jimmy Carter's head of the Veterans Administration.

    In the mid-1960s, he volunteered to fight in Vietnam. During the siege of Khe Sanh just days before his tour of duty was to end, he picked up a fallen grenade and lost both legs and his right arm. He was awarded the Bronze and Silver Stars for meritorious service.

    On "The MacNeil/Lehrer Report" in 1978, then-VA Administrator Cleland spoke of the difficulties facing those who had served in that unpopular war.

  • Max Cleland, U.S. Secretary Of Veterans Affairs:

    I think that part of the problem that we will have with Vietnam veterans is, unfortunately, the negative image that the war, in a sense, created for us.

    I am personally committed to making sure that those who have served this country, and served it well, particularly the disabled veteran, gets the finest treatment in our hospital system possible.

  • John Yang:

    He was elected to the Senate in 1996, but lost reelection a year after 9/11 in a nasty race in which his Republican opponent, who had never served in the military, questioned his patriotism.

    Bound to a wheelchair most of his adult life, Cleland was gregarious and upbeat, known for wearing a Mickey Mouse watch as a reminder, he said, not to take life too seriously.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Max Cleland was 79 years old, a remarkable man.

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