It makes no difference to me if you want to claim you were under fire in Tuzla, or to report that a chopper (sorry, bird) you were flying in took an RPG hit. As a decorated combat war vet myself (As an eight-year-old, I took the garage, alone, from the entrenched forces of my older brother and his friends, using dog poop grenades to flush them out), I have learned that there’s more than enough valor to go around.
But you know who gets all touchy about that kind of thing? Veterans.
Robert McDonald, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, misrepresented his military record in a recent TV appearance, falsely stating that he was in an elite special operations division.
McDonald, a West Point grad who served with the 82nd Airborne Division during the late 1970s, has issued an apology for the misstatement.
The story was first reported by the Huffington Post’s David Wood. There was no suggestion in Wood’s story of any pattern of misstatements by McDonald. The comment in question came while McDonald was being filmed by a CBS News crew as he toured Los Angeles during a count of homeless veterans, one of whom told McDonald he had served in special ops.
McDonald replied: “Special Forces? What years? I was in Special Forces.” The segment aired Jan. 30.
“Special operators are a close-knit community deeply hostile to outsiders who try to claim the coveted mantle of special operations,” wrote Wood, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for his reporting on the “physical and emotional challenges facing American soldiers severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan during a decade of war.”
Wood reported that McDonald, the former chief executive of Procter and Gamble who was brought in to shape up the embattled VA, completed Army Ranger training but “never served in a Ranger battalion or any other special operations unit.”
In a statement provided by the VA, McDonald said: “While I was in Los Angeles, engaging a homeless individual to determine his veteran status, I asked the man where he had served in the military. He responded that he had served in special forces. I incorrectly stated that I had been in special forces. That was inaccurate and I apologize to anyone that was offended by my misstatement.”
I guess he gets a pass. He did serve, and the story says he completed Army Ranger training. It was a brain fart, not a pattern of lying. But for the VA Secretary to do something so stupid, so offensive to the veterans he was appointed to serve? I wouldn’t expect them to be as forgiving.
PS: Or is there a pattern of lying?