Thursday, January 19, 2006

Releasing War Records

Major Mike

I am a combat veteran. I joined the VFW my first day back in the States, and am a life member. I flew forty missions in the Gulf War, and have received many citations for my combat service, and my non-combat service.

There is a flare up underway about John Murtha's combat/decoration history here, here, and on this page is a Brit Hume video on the subject. Based on what I have read in the opening paragraphs of Forgotten Soldier and the entirety of Stolen Valor some people have a habit of exaggerating their combat records...if they have one at all.

So, as a combat vet, I have an opinion on this subject. I think Murtha's record should be fully explored. I think fakers and exaggerators count on the politeness and deference of others in allowing, either spoken or implied, exaggeration of their military records to become "fact" over time, and discussion of their "record" to then become "off limits" for discussion. This is how dozens of people have been "awarded" our nations highest honors, taken advantage of these exaggerations for their personal gain, and as Burkett points out in Stolen Valor, stolen the honor of real combat heroes who have legitimately earned their combat and non-combat decorations.

Remember Adm. Boorda? He falsely wore a combat "V" device on one of his non-combat awards. (A "V" device is affixed to a ribbon and denotes that the wearer earned the medal for combat service involving hostile fire, vice earning the medal for some non-combat meritorious service or act) He committed suicide once this was exposed. Among honorable veterans, the value of the awards lie in the belief that they were earned by those who wear them. Valor in combat is admired by those who witness it, and when appropriately rewarded with medals, it is respected by those who recognize the combat awards worn on the uniform.

So, if you are advertising the award, I say prove it. Back up the veracity of the award, and the questions surrounding the validity will evaporate. Stall, deny, delay and hide, and you will draw suspicion from those of us who have earned our medals. And when it comes to those who have been awarded the Purple Heart, you WILL draw their ire, if you have accepted and worn a respected medal for a scratch or a bruise. Additionally, questions will naturally arise when claims of multiple Purple Hearts are not manifest with any visible injury. Remember John Kerry and the attention his Purple Hearts received?

So, as a combat vet, I have no issues whatsoever in asking John Murtha to release his entire record for public scrutiny. His reluctance to do so would immediately create suspicion in my mind as to whether what he has stated publicly is coincident with what is in his record. So, I say Murtha...release your complete military file via the Pentagon...not via your staff, and let the chips fall where they may. I am not ashamed to ask that. Reading Stolen valor will be enough to convince you that this is a reasonable request of someone who has made their service, and his awards, part of his political persona.

In the interest of full personal decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal with gold star in lieu of second award, Single mission Air Medal (non-combat award), Strike Flight Medal with numeral "7" (for missions flown in Bosnia and the first Gulf War), and Navy Commendation Medal with Combat "V" device, and two gold stars in lieu of second and third awards.


Mr.Atos said...

Bravo Sir! First may I say, thank you for your service to this nation and on behalf of my family. There is pride in valor, and you have earned it as well as permanent and profound respect for the duty you have performed. It is a thing earned, not awarded as the Left would have us believe. And they will just as easily redact it when it serves their purposes to do so, as the Swift Boat Vets sadly discovered and as you might well find out too in forthcoming comments. Nevertheless, your demand is fully justified.

It is time that we stop awarding merit at whim... by race, gender, disability, preference, patronage, popularity or playlist. There is one standard of value for both Man and Woman alike... their sense of purpose and their allegiance to that sensibility. It transcends personal identity to place one's existence in context of a larger story in which one's role has significance beyond their presence on this Earth.

Purpose is not proferred nor pilfered, and cannot be found in a mirror. Which might be why John Kerry (and I suspect John Murtha) will never posess such a thing... and why they will never, ever matter.

dueler88 said...

I am not a combat veteran. I never served in the military. My experience with these matters comes primarily from my father (a former U.S. Army Signal Corps officer) and my grandfather (a former U.S. Army officer and Batallion Surgeon in the Pacific Theater during WWII).

Their service was honorable in our family tradition, but was VERY rarely a topic of conversation. Dad's uniforms, medals and insignia remained carefully put away in the closet, only to be brought out at the request of inquisitive and bright-eyed boys. My grandfather's, on the other hand, probably remain in storage to this day. He had no sons, inquisitive or otherwise, and it was a chapter of his life that he never discussed with his children or grandchildren - understandably so, for his job in service was to repair, immediately, quickly, desperately, the human cost of war.

All of the military men I have known - Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, enlisted, NCO, officer - needed a great deal of coaxing before they would discuss their military service. For some it was because they hated it or it bored them. For others it was because it was in the past. For others it was because they were simply "doing their duty." And for a small few, it was because the horror of war was too burdensome to relive.

Probably as a result of my experiences in this context, I don't particularly trust anybody that is eager to talk about the exploits of their military service, especially their awards. Awards received are just that - past tense. What matters to these fine men and women is the present - what you do with it. It is the content of character that matters, not the insignias on one's breast or the certificates of achievement on one's wall. How those experiences shape your character matter more than the world's recognition or the applause of men.

In regards to Mr. Murtha, or any other veteran in Congress: his history is what it is. "Because you served" is not reason enough to justify an opinion. Only who you are, the person shaped by events, can rightfully justify your opinion.