Despite the high regard in which Americans have held the military for generations, there is a lot about the military that those who haven’t served don’t quite understand.
Veterans speak a language peppered with acronyms like DD-214, jargon like “watch your six “ and recollections of shared hardship that can leave others scratching their heads.
That gap of understanding between the protected and their protectors is typically bridged by mutual respect, but can also be a gutter in which liars and character assassins slither.
The most recent snake to peek its head up from the muck is a writing team for a leftwing publication whose only knowledge of the military was likely acquired while Googling derogatory slogans to scrawl on protest signs.
In a stunning display of inadequate research, slanted interpretation of valid data and some overly dramatic language, The Intercept, little more than a click-hungry website, took aim at the reputation of a bona fide American hero. Unfortunately, more mainstream publications lofted their accusations into the national consciousness with little thought.
The guiding premise of the article was that Chris Kyle, known to a grateful nation as its best-ever sniper in multiple combat zones, was a liar. The writer’s assertion is that Kyle laid claim to more medals than the military had awarded him for his valor in combat. At issue was a disparity between Kyle’s account in his book, “American Sniper,” records obtained from a seemingly indifferent Navy through a Freedom of Information Act request and Kyle’s official DD-214. The first mentioned two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars, the Navy recalled one Silver Star and 3 Bronze Stars and the DD-214 credited him with TWO Silver Stars and SIX Bronze Stars.
If there is any inaccuracy in Kyle’s account it’s that he didn’t take ENOUGH credit for his awards.
As any veteran will tell you, a DD-214 is THE definitive record of a person’s time in the military, used to prove the authenticity, duration and character of said service. The official name for the form is Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty and veterans learn early on to keep a copy handy. In separation briefings, service members are carefully coached to review it thoroughly because, once it’s filed, it’s filed.
This article is part of a disturbing trend in the left-leaning press to undermine the heroism of men and women who are willing to risk their lives in the defense of our nation’s freedom.
My good friend, Marcus Luttrell, known to many as the Lone Survivor for his experiences on a hilltop in Afghanistan, has also been a target of similarly unscrupulous reporting.
For Viet Nam-era veterans, this casually gleeful character assassination is an unpleasant reminder of a time when our military was attacked and undermined by critics on the left.
Perhaps it’s a byproduct of nearly eight years of an arch-liberal in the Oval Office combined with an American population increasingly disconnected from the men and women who serve in the military.
I hope all of us will take a moment on this week of Memorial Day to seek understanding and take action that honors one of our nation’s great warriors.
I am calling on people of conscience to join me in calling for the retraction and deletion of the offending article and reprimand of the Navy personnel who have fed this misperception with their lackadaisical handling of the original information request. Both also owe an apology to Taya, Chris Kyle’s loving widow, and to service members, past and present, for disparaging one of their own.
This request might seem odd from someone who is committed to the constitutional freedoms our military fights to defend, but freedom of speech and deliberate libel are two entirely different things.
To honor the memory of an American hero, the latter cannot be tolerated.
Rick Perry is a former governor of Texas.