First, I have to mention the 'outrage' my series on Congressman Walz has prompted. A couple of local bloggers have been attacking me, not for calling out Congressman Walz for his misleading website and still unexplained photo claiming to be a combat veteran, but instead they have attacked me for being a member of the National Guard and criticizing my elected leaders.
Both claim that I am using my official Army email address to launch these 'attacks'. While it is true that I used my army.mil email to register this blog (I was in Iraq at the time and the army.mil email was simply the safest and most reliable email in a combat zone) it is also true that that information isn't available to the casual reader. In fact, if you look over this entire blog, including my profile, you wont see any Army email address. I have been blogging for 2 1/2 years now, including 12 months of active duty time. This issue has never come up before, nor have I ever been censored by the military in what I say. I do censor myself for OPSEC and military discipline, but I have never been told by the military that anything I have said on this blog was inappropriate.
And I have never been anything but respectful to elected officials when I agree or disagree with them. In contrast with so many bloggers and commenters who regularly use foul language and hurl insults at politicians they disagree with, you will more often than not find me addressing politicians by their titles. Just as I do when in uniform, I respect the rank even if not the man.
Interestingly, neither critic has provided any evidence to refute my claim that Congressman Walz's biography on his website is misleading, and that he claimed to be a combat veteran of the Afghanistan war at a political rally in 2004. I guess when you can't refute the truth, they prefer to attack the guy telling the truth.
Back to the title of the post. Congressman Walz is misleading and on one instance claiming to be a veteran of an operation he didn't fight in. Soldiers in the military universally despise this, as the retired CSM well knows.
One soldier I talked to this week told me that he was mad at the Congressman for his website claim. This soldier got back last summer from a yearlong deployment to Kosovo, and mentioned that his official orders said 'in support of Operation Enduring Freedom'. He asked me to make two points when (or if) I ever get to talk with Congressman Walz. First-he has never in the year that he has been home told anyone that he served 'in support of Operation Enduring Freedom'. Rather, he told people he did peacekeeping in Kosovo (just as I did with my unit 5 years ago). Second-he pointed out that Kosovo is actually closer to Afghanistan than Italy is, and he was payed hostile fire pay for his deployment, while those deployed to Italy were not.
In fact, Italy is over 3000 miles away from Afghanistan.
So why doesn't this soldier tell people he was 'in support of Operation Enduring Freedom'? Because it is part of a code of honor among soldiers. Not only do you not exaggerate where you have been and what you have done, most soldiers prefer to understate it. Usually the guys who talk the most are telling the truth the least.
Which is why when I got back from Kosovo in 2004, I was pretty quiet about the fact that I joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I was eligible because Kosovo was a hostile fire zone, but to me the VFW was for combat veterans. I felt very small walking into my first meeting with men who had served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, while I had been a peacekeeper. But now that I am an Iraq War vet, I have no such qualms about being in the VFW. In fact, I was elected as an officer recently and I run the post website.
Similarly, I could also introduce myself as a disabled American combat veteran. I qualify for membership in the DAV because I am a combat veteran and I have a disability rating from the VA resulting from my active duty combat service. But calling myself a combat disabled veteran, much like Walz's website, would mislead people into thinking I was wounded in combat. I was not, so I don't claim I was, nor do I leave it for people to speculate about.
I could also tell people that I was awarded a commendation while in combat, and let people infer that I did something spectacular during a battle that was worthy of an official commendation. But that would also be misleading. I was awarded the Army Commendation while in Iraq, but it was a service, not a valor award. If you don't understand the difference between the two, you are not alone. Most civilians think all military awards are given for bravery, heroism, or courage under fire (just as most people see Enduring Freedom and think Afghanistan), when in fact military awards are much more likely to be given for non-combat.
In any or all of these three examples, I could have easily mislead people into believing that I had earned an honor or qualified for a status that I did not. In all three cases I simply did what was right, and didn't overstate my service record, just as the vast majority of soldiers do every day.
As of this afternoon, Congressman Walz or his staffers have yet to give me the courtesy of a return phone call or email.