"We feel we have been used in the worst fashion by the administration of this country," said Kerry on April 22, 1971.
"We cannot call ourselves America's best men when we were ashamed and hated what we were called to do in Southeast Asia."
Today, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee is still chewing that day over in his mind, still trying to explain the path that led him from war hero to anti-war activist. And frankly, he said in an interview with CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart, he wishes he'd done some things differently.
"I was young and it was an emotional time and we were all caught up in it. I wish I'd sort of paid greater tribute to some of the service of people and drawn the line in a better way," Kerry told Stewart.
Kerry acknowledges that some veterans got mad at him – and some still carry that anger.
"Some do, you bet they do, and I'm sorry about that," he says. "But I understand. I respect it. It's my deal, and I carry that."
The day after that 1971 Senate appearance, Kerry went further, accompanying veterans who threw away their medals.
And then Kerry threw his awards away as well.
"For some people it was difficult. For us, it was an expression of how we were trying to catch the country's attention."
Would he do it again?
"Yeah. Probably. Yeah."
And, says Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant who was there that day 33 years ago, Kerry suspected there would be a price.
"He was certain that whatever happened after that week he would never have a chance at a political career because of the stands he'd take," Oliphant said.
"I did pay a price," Kerry says, "and I took 10 years of my life, paid my dues, worked to help other people and ran for office ten years later."
And now he surrounds himself with fellow veterans and reminds voters of his Silver Star in a bid for the office he felt once let him down.