COLUMN: Distorted Vietnam service has a long history

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 | 12:12 p.m. CDT; updated 6:03 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What a difference a few years makes. Throughout the 1960s, '70s and most of the '80s, Vietnam veterans were portrayed as unemployable and uneducated hicks, felons given a choice between prison and military service, war criminals, youngsters brainwashed to believe they performed a patriotic duty, or dead-end kids with no other options.

It was unwise to advertise one's veteran status, particularly in the academic atmosphere; however, with the release of Sylvester Stallone's "First Blood" and Chuck Norris' "Missing in Action" series of movies, it became trendy to acknowledge or to fabricate Vietnam service. Camouflage fatigues, jungle boots and scruffy, unkempt appearance were the new "cool."

As the years went by, the "veterans" became younger and more heroic — you seldom met one who had not been Special Forces, Marine Recon or a Navy SEAL. Were there no cooks, clerks or logistics personnel? In his 1998 book, "Stolen Valor," former Army 1st Lt. B. G. Burkett, a Vietnam veteran, exposed and documented the cowards, counterfeits and wannabes who "robbed the Vietnam generation of its heroes and history."

Not all of the fictions entailed posing as heroes by unauthorized wearing of uniforms and unearned medals, false claims of Vietnam service or fabricating combat experiences. Antiwar organizations showcased a collection of actual and phony veterans to fabricate tales of atrocities and exaggerate virtually all the myths of the "Vietnam existence." Two prime examples of these charades were the January 1971 "Winter Soldier Investigation" in Detroit by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and the "60 Minutes" June 1988 documentary "The Wall Within."

That each was a sham, concocted by antiwar activists to cast the military in a poor light, is well-documented in "Stolen Valor" and other exposés. A typical impostor was Al Hubbard, executive secretary of VVAW, who claimed to have been a captain wounded by ground fire while flying a transport aircraft. In reality, he was an Air Force sergeant who had never been in Vietnam. Many had never served in the armed forces.

"The Wall Within" featured six "typical" Vietnam veterans whose war stories included command-sanctioned rapes and murders, behind-the-lines enemy assassinations and the resultant horror of having to live with combat-induced post-traumatic stress disorder. Of the six, three had actually served in Vietnam, and only one had seen combat. An interesting sidelight to the "Wall": Dan Rather and CBS were provided evidence that the six were pretenders; nevertheless, the show went on.

Finally, when it appeared that we had seen the end in denigrating Vietnam veterans along with a marked reduction in counterfeit heroes, out of the woodwork appears David Blumenthal, Connecticut attorney general and Democratic Party primary candidate for Sen. Chris Dodd's open seat. He claims to have served as a Marine in Vietnam and to have experienced the less-than-civil reception of that conflict's returnees. The record reflects otherwise — a 1970 enlistment in the USMC Reserves and service in a Civil Affairs unit in Washington D.C.

Mr. Blumenthal has admitted that he "misspoke," that when he said he served "in" Vietnam, he meant "during" — that he was "unaware of those misplaced spoken words." The local and national party apparatus have joined in support of his candidacy; however, it is difficult to ascertain the effectiveness of this damage control. There is a bond of brotherhood among combat veterans — they close ranks rapidly against impostors. Few people respect one who misrepresents military service.

Perhaps Mr. Blumenthal can rationalize a difference between "misspeak" and prevaricate (lie) or the lesser-included offense (fib) in describing his service as a Marine. However, the stark experience of combat among the "mud, the blood and the tears" of war cannot be confused with planning drills and Toys for Tots drives.

Some will argue that this artful deceit is overstated — one must look to the "whole man" concept instead. In reality, it is evidence of a serious character flaw, an apparent lack of integrity in one being considered for election to the Senate. Moral relativism does not inspire trust and confidence.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at



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Gregg Bush June 2, 2010 | 10:34 a.m.

I assume your words are not just reserved for Blumenthal only.
Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) also displays "evidence of a serious character flaw, an apparent lack of integrity in one being considered for election to the Senate."
I mean, you can't come down on one side and give the other a pass...can you? After all, "moral relativism does not inspire trust and confidence."

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller June 4, 2010 | 9:03 p.m.

Greg, unless I am mistaken, my opinion piece reflected Vietnam era wannabes, counterfeits and exaggerators. By my calculation, Mark Kirk, who was born in 1959, would have been 6 years old in 1965 and 12 in 1971 wwhen most troops exited RVN. I do admire your persistent efforts to find inconsistencies in my columns--one of these days, you may even be successful.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop June 4, 2010 | 10:12 p.m.

I was the first board member of TAFM to represent the membership in the Houston Area Veterans Council when it formed and serve on HAVC's first board (I didn't get to have a choice either). The first thing we did was require board members present their honorable discharge certificate and a copy of their DD214, with the understanding it would be verified. Colonel Miller was once a guest speaker before our organization (then 600 strong, included three Medal of Honor recipients and other living legends of the Marine Corps.) At that time Col. Miller was the Commandant of the Marine Military Academy at Harlingen, Texas, where his sergeant major had also been one of my previous battalion sergeant majors in an infantry battalion, then where Major Ollie North was our operations officer.

Gregg, although Colonel Miller's article is confined to Vietnam era vets, I can assure you he has disdain for anybody misrepresenting themselves as veterans when they were not, or of exaggerating the character of their service. It was for this very purpose that the Stolen Valor law was passed. In my years as a Marine, I served with men who were never in combat and those who were awarded the Medal of Honor. We made little distinction between the two because they both wore the title of United States Marine.

I have seen personal and moral courage represented in time of war and during peace. I can assure you that Colonel Miller exhibited both on multiple occasions. Yet I knew another Colonel, Moe Becker, who while force reconnaissance qualified, a former battalion commander of a recruit battalion, and several other distinguishing commands, never once served in combat. Which frustrated the officer no end. Yet he earned his rank and never wore any decoration to which he was not entitled. He was an officer of honor extremely few men ever earn, and attained the rank of Colonel, something in which maybe one out of every 10,000 Marines ever accomplishes.

So please Gregg, before you think yourself creditable in even discussing matters of military honor with Colonel Miller, take into account that the author you are addressing has staked his very life on multiple occasions and will never find it necessary to justify his opinion in this area since the decorations he wears speak for themselves and are easily verifiable. He's walked the walk.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush June 5, 2010 | 8:41 a.m.

Col. Miller,
You flatter me with your "admiration."
I'm still unclear, however. Do you condemn someone who misrepresents themselves as commended with a military honor? Or do you give them a pass like Sen. Hatch (R-Utah)?
Your fealty to the colonel is above reproach. I'll only address this once. You don't know anything about me or my service to this country. You don't know the walk that I've walked. And to quote Cyrano, "I carry my adornments on the inside - I do not need to dress up like a popinjay." Your assumptions about me speak volumes of your ignorance.

(Report Comment)
Carl Kabler June 7, 2010 | 1:00 p.m.

The only real 'heroes' I find ever coming back from wars are those who come back 'enlightened', telling the rest of the world what a racket war really is and what the real reasons are for these 'manufactured wars'. How many of these 'heroes' are there left today, who can cut through all the crap and lies, risk their cozy jobs and paychecks, and stand part from the rest of the herd? Sadly it appears, not nearly enough.

(Report Comment)
Carl Kabler June 7, 2010 | 1:04 p.m.

Do people in the Marine Corp even know who Smedley Butler was? Do they claim to 'honor' him while ignoring and even doweplaying his words? If so, then who are the REAL frauds?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 8, 2010 | 6:14 a.m.

What is the "Marine Corp," and is someone trying to be cute or just managing to publicly display their ignorance?

What's it going to be next, the "United States Army Corp of Engineers," my former armed service branch?

(Report Comment)
Carl Kabler June 8, 2010 | 9:12 a.m.

Ellis, I don't understand your question, were you just referring to the lack of an 's' on Corp? Anyway, make sure to read the article at the link, don't worry to much about spelling or typos, that's just a useless distraction, it's really content that we're after here. War is indeed a "Racket" and the wars/occupations we're in now are a prime example of this. Smedley Butler nailed it, but ironically it appears, few who claim to 'honor'him even know what he was trying to tell them or perhaps even care. Perhaps it's easier that way.

(Report Comment)
Carl Kabler June 8, 2010 | 1:13 p.m.

Here's one more observation especially relevant for our times and especially for anyone who has taken a vow to defend the Constitution from ALL enemies. Take the time to REALLY understand what is happening, who the people are that are attacking the very ideals of American Liberty and why, and just what their 'end game' is all about. America is at a grave crossroads, it needs it's honest patriots and defenders now more than perhaps any time in it's history. Will YOU rise to the occasion or rather just flip to the next episode of Dancing With the Stars.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop June 9, 2010 | 5:40 p.m.

Carl, I've had War is a Racket for 50 years, and would bet you didn't know Smedley Butler's nickname was Old Gimlet Eye....something every Marine recruit learns. And back when Smedley Butler wrote War is a Racket, he was in favor of an iron tight border and complete isolationism. In the modern world that type of thought process is crazy. In a nuclear age when a ship can sit 500 miles off your coast and launch a nuclear missile that will reach your coastal cities within minutes, it's suicidal. And while General Butler did disdain the use of the Marines in the banana wars, he did recognize that Germany was the brutal aggressor in WW1. While Butler did not hold a combat command in WW1, those Marines of the 5th and 6th Marine regiments that stopped the Germans cold within 40 miles of Paris understood that too.

But comparing the banana wars with the stopping of radical Islam is like comparing a cough to stage four cancer. And the war in SE Asia - well, you'll have to ask the dead in Vietnam and Cambodia after the communists won about whether or not that was necessary.

Gregg, back on Dec 19th, you asked the colonel to state his environmental credentials. Well, you should state your military credentials. Or were your assumptions of the Colonels environmental credentials speaking volumes of your ignorance on December 19th?

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush June 10, 2010 | 11:33 a.m.

You liked it so much you had to steal it!
I'm flattered!
Recycle anything of mine you like.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop June 11, 2010 | 3:31 a.m.

Gregg, just showing your total ineptness when it comes to presenting any facts to prove your position. You cry like a little baby when your own arguments are used against you to show what a weak advocate you are. No, you have not walked the walk. And while you may quote Cyrano, I'm sure the only adornments you've ever worn on the inside were a pair of nice mental running shoes which you use in your pathetic attempts to escape arguments which are far superior to your drivel. As to dressing up like a popinjay, why don't you try visiting your local Marine Corps base enlisted club and try that line out on them.

(Report Comment)
Carl Kabler June 11, 2010 | 5:31 p.m.

Well again, I guess best to just disagree agreeably, but the 'racket' part of war never changes and the reasons given for these latest wars by the Mockingbird press and it's cheeleaders are completely fraudulant. These are wars for resource control, to funnel billions to selected cronies, to prop up Israeli Zionist Supremacist ambitions, etc. and 'radical Islam' as you call it is only a response not a 'cause'. I don't blame people for not more fully understanding this, and I don't single you out, but in general when people are lied to over and over and over by people in gov. and on their T.V.s, who they can't see are lying to them and why, then I don't suppose I can really blame them that they feel and think the way they do. So much effort and huge amounts of time and money go into the manipulating of the public thought process that many can never be expected to look deeper and find the deeper answers. Oh well, all in good time though I guess.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop June 11, 2010 | 9:44 p.m.

Okay Carl, I'll have to admit I never expected that from somebody with your smarts. Israeli Zionist Supremacist ambitions? Israel is slightly smaller than New Jersey. About 8,700 square miles. From 1979 to 1982, Israel withdrew from 42,000 square miles of the Sinai, and gave up the Gaza Strip just a few years ago. Jews from around the world gave millions of dollars to Jewish farmers in the Gaza to leave their farms intact for the Palestinians. After the Israelis left the Palis destroyed those farms and greenhouses.

Calling Islamic terrorism a response rather than a cause shows you clearly do not understand the concept of radical Islam. This recent form of radical Islam dates back to the 1740s and has been at the forefront of the butchering of millions of people, particularly Shia Muslims in Iraq and Iran. What we have now are simply two different forms of radical Sunni Wahabi, and one Shia. But to say these are some reaction to Westerners is ludicrous. You sir are the one who needs more reading in this area. I suggest you start with Dore Gold's book, Hatred's Kingdom. I suggest you learn more too about Muslim imperialism:

(Report Comment)

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