Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lied about his service

There's a guy named Richard Blumenthal who is the Attorney General of Connecticut, currently running for the Senate, as a Democrat in that State. He had served in the Army during the Vietnam era but had misrepresented himself as having actually served in Vietnam, when that was not the case. He's in trouble for it now.

I turned 19 and thus eligible for the draft, in October of 1970. This was the year after the lottery system had been adopted. I was very lucky to get a high number and it was very unlikely that I would be drafted that year. After the numbers were drawn, I dropped my student deferment and sweated it out until the end of the year. I was in no rush to defend democracy in South East Asia.

I knew some guys my age who went to Vietnam. Most of them were drafted. They all just tried to keep their heads down while there. None of them stayed on or went back for a second tour. Some actually saw combat, most did not. It was pretty dangerous there whether or not you were in a combatant unit. A lot of veterans used the GI Bill to attend college where I went. They would tell stories over beers, a lot of them were terrible, funny and fascinating at the same time. Most agreed that the War was a futile effort and that the Vietnamese had no stomach for the conflict without us to do most of the fighting. The loathing for officers and enlisted lifers was universal and the consensus was that they all had their heads up their asses. There were stories of courage and heroism told. Mostly guys who were driven to take out their rage and sense of futility on whoever was around and if the Viet Cong were around they at least didn't get punished for killing them. I'm not saying that every young guy that went to Vietnam felt that way but a lot of the ones that I knew did.

I was good friends an old guy who's dead now, originally from Western Louisiana. Little shrimpy Cajun guy, maybe 5' 5", 130lbs. He was in his early middle twenties when World War II started. He joined the Army the day after Pearl Harbor. He got put in Patton's Third Army. He fought across North Africa, Italy, France and Germany. He was in the Battle of the Bulge. He mustered out after the War but joined up again, this time as a Marine, for Korea. Great guy, maybe not the brightest you'll ever meet. He was there when the Chinese blew the bugles for the Winter suicide charges, the Americans ran out of bullets trying to kill them all and the lines were overrun. He stayed in the Marines after Korea. Why not? He'd done more than his share.  He figured he'd get his thirty in. He had the kind of decorations you don't see all the time and lots of them. He ended up as an E-8, running the motor pool at El Toro. In '67, they told him he should either volunteer for Vietnam or hang it up. He was still years short of his thirty. He never hesitated. Put in his papers the next day and was a civilian within a month. He told me more than once that he regretted not getting the bigger pension check but not refusing to go to Vietnam. I never met a more patriotic guy. Beat the crap out of ya with a lead loaded, sawed off, Louisville Slugger if he thought you lacked respect. Get away with it too. The local cops all loved him. Anybody involved in anything nefarious around the neighborhood, he'd warn them once to their face, then drop a dime on 'em if they were still around the next day. He was just that kind of guy.

So what do I think of Richard Blumenthal? He never had anything to be ashamed of. Shouldn't have lied. He's probably not the kind of guy you'd want representing you in Washington. Is he?