Another Lie About Military Service

Jerry Coffee
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Wednesday - May 26, 2010
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“On a few occasions I have misspoken about my (military) service, and I regret that. I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to my country. I served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and am proud of it.”

So announced Connecticut Attorney General Dick Blumenthal, who is running for the U.S. Senate, to a VFW audience during a campaign speech. He was responding to a New York Times article accusing him of lying about his “Vietnam” service.

Which he did! And he apparently made no effort to correct several published articles that also lauded his “Vietnam” service.

He also implied as much when he said “When we came home from Vietnam ... the indignities we faced upon return ...”

To be fair, he did occasionally say he served during the Vietnam war, but more often he seemed very comfortable having friends, acquaintances, media and voters believe he was a Vietnam veteran who had actually served “in country.”


 

The first thing that occurred to me was how easily we tolerate the replacement of the word “lie” with “misspeak” or “a few misplaced words” nowadays and it seems to not even register with many listeners that the person is talking about lying.

After a string of deferments from 1965 to 1970 ran out (they had allowed Blumenthal to complete his Harvard education, a graduate fellowship in England, a job as Katherine Graham’s assistant at the Washington Post and a stint in the Nixon White House) he joined the Marine Corps Reserve. That - after six months of basic training at Paris Island - kept him in Washington, D.C., “attending drills, fixing up public campgrounds and working with the Marine Corps charity, Toys for Tots.”

OK, some Marines may have had to do that, but it was a far cry from his “time as a Marine sergeant in Vietnam,” of which he would speak.

The interesting thing about Blumenthal’s story is he was hardly the Lone Ranger. In the troubled wake of the Vietnam war, thousands of wannabes, like many middle-aged guys who have approached me after speaking from my own Vietnam experience, have come to consider that war as the defining event of their generation. It’s as if they missed the granddaddy rite of passage from boyhood to manhood. If they missed serving, for whatever reason - self-contrived or simply luck of the draw - they have expressed guilt, shame, envy or provided some rationalization. Many have said they’d enlist and try to go to Vietnam if they could have a do-over.

Actually, the poster boy for this syndrome is Darrow “Duke” Tully, once publisher of the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette newspapers and an avid McCain supporter. He was known to be a well-connected social elite who traveled in the poshest circles wearing his military officer’s finery replete with prestigious ribbons and medals attesting to his combat valor (in Korea and Vietnam).

He was a complete fraud.


In their award-winning book Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Their Heroes and History, BG Burkett and Glenna Whitley document hundreds of Vietnam vets, Vietnam POWs and even Medal of Honor wannabes - some opportunists, some kooks, some motivated as I described above, but all frauds. As often as not, although apparently not the case with Blumenthal, these made-up military autobiographies include some of our nation’s highest military decorations, including the Medal of Honor. The book also exposes the many media myths about Vietnam vets as disillusioned, depressed, suicidal, druggedout, alcoholic misfits.

Drawing from the lessons of this book, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed into law the “Stolen Honor Act of 2005,” which makes it a crime to wear or claim unauthorized awards. As a federal misdemeanor, the law carries a punishment of up to a year in prison and a nominal fine.

One wonders if the “I mis-spoke” or the “a few misplaced words” defense would hold any water.

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