A hero is a person who puts him or herself at risk for the benefit of others. That certainly characterizes anyone who donned a uniform and went to war, voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way in our armed forces and those who serve or served far from home in difficult or dangerous circumstances. That’s an apt description of those with whom I served in Vietnam. That’s not Richard Blumenthal, the Attorney General of Connecticut, who wants to be his state’s next United States Senator. He’s a phony.
According to The New York Times, the Associated Press and just about every other news outlet on the planet, Mr. Blumenthal has made a habit of portraying himself as a veteran of the Vietnam War. He is quoted as having told a Connecticut veteran’s group in March of 2008, “We have learned something important since the days I served in Vietnam…” He has also emotionally recalled being “spat on” and “we couldn’t wear our uniforms” when “we returned from Vietnam.” On other occasions he has reflected on “…the taunts, the insults, sometimes physical abuse” he suffered after coming back from Vietnam. At a 2003 rally in Bridgeport, Conn. to support U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan he said, “When we returned, we saw nothing like this…” Unfortunately for Mr. Blumenthal, we now know he never served in Vietnam. He has known it all along.
In fairness to Mr. Blumenthal, he did indeed enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1970 – after receiving at least five draft deferments. He apparently made it through Marine “Boot Camp” at Parris Island, S.C. – no mean feat. The publicly available record shows that after completing Basic Training he never deployed overseas but he did fulfill his obligated service in a Washington, D.C. – based Civil Affairs detachment and a Motor Transport unit in Connecticut. That entitles him to wear the same Eagle, Globe and Anchor that adorns my uniform. But that doesn’t give him the right to demean the service of the young Marines and Navy Corpsmen with whom I served in that long ago, far away war – or those from the present fight who have volunteered to go in harm’s way.
Mr. Blumenthal’s lies about his service aren’t simply a problem of “misspeaking” as he now claims or just a matter of padding his résumé. What he has been doing through much of his public career is to walk on the backs of those who really did serve in Vietnam – and falsely build affinity with those who serve today.
In the 1990s, Oregon Republican Congressman Wes Cooley, who falsely claimed he had served in the Korean War, was thrown out of office by his constituents after being caught up in his lies. Indiana Republican Congressman Mark Souder resigned just this week when his extra-marital affair was revealed. These men are no greater charlatans or frauds than Mr. Blumenthal. It’s hard to imagine how the people of Connecticut would want a hypocrite like Mr. Blumenthal to be seated in the same U.S. Senate with a real American hero like Virginia’s Senator Jim Webb. Perhaps Democrats just have a higher tolerance for deceit.
Oliver North, is host of "War Stories on Fox News Channel." He served in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine.
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