During his 2010 run for the Senate, then Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was revealed to have lied about serving in Vietnam. Over the years, Blumenthal had made much of his service in Vietnam as a Marine but it was revealed that not only had Blumenthal not served in Vietnam, his USMC service was limited to being a member of the Marine Corps Reserve which, along with his college deferments, kept him out of Vietnam.
Let me pause here of a moment. I don’t have any huge objection to men who grew up in the 1960s using the system to avoid being drafted any more than I object to people using an accountant to minimize their tax liability. The government makes the rules and if they make stupid ones…and the draft law was chock to the gills with really stupid rules…then I don’t see where you are under a moral, legal, or ethical obligation to say, “hey, that rule is dumb but I’ll not take advantage of it and go ahead and screw myself so that I can show the world what kind of a righteous person I am.” Where my tolerance ends is when you say you served in combat.
That brings me to Nathan Phillips. Phillips is the guy who manufactured a controversy over the weekend (again). He and a group of his cronies participating in the alleged Indigenous Peoples March decided to walk into the middle of a group of Catholic high school students who were under verbal attack by another protest group. Phillips directly approached one of the students, got in his face, and proceed to bang his tom-tom right in the kid’s face. For a few hours, the left and NeverTrump engaged in an orgy of hate…the kid was wearing a MAGA hat so you know what that means…a kid was erroneously doxxed, the school was threatened, and, all in all, it was much as we’ve come to expect from the news media winding up an online lynch mob. And the headlines usually reflected that Phillips was a veteran or a Vietnam veteran (apparently that was supposed to authorize an extra dose of hate directed at the Kentucky students).
Here is my first story years ago regarding the contributions of Native American Vietnam Veteran Nathan Phillips …
"American Indian veterans honored annually at Arlington National Cemetery"https://t.co/jFkD8AUMDN
— Vincent Schilling (@VinceSchilling) January 19, 2019
A quick search found an lot more instances of the same.
Wikipedia: “Nathan Phillips (activist), Native American activist and Vietnam War veteran.”
UPI: “…laughing and chanting at Vietnam War veteran Nathan Phillips…
TMZ: “A mob of MAGA hat-wearing teenagers swarmed around a Native American Vietnam veteran…”
Slate: “…Nathan Phillips, a Vietnam War veteran…”
Washington Post*: “…Phillips, an Omaha tribe elder who fought in the Vietnam War…”
*the Washington Post has since stealth edited this story but the original clip is below:
Huffington Post: “Phillips served in the Vietnam War and is the former director…”
GoFundMe: “…Native American Vietnam War Veteran Nathan Phillips was mocked and harassed…”
But the other thing that struck me was Phillip’s age.
The Washington Post: “…Phillips, 64,…”
The Omaha World Herald reprinted a profile it ran of Phillips in November 2000: “Now 45, Phillips has been sober for 16 years”
That struck me as curious because that places Phillips year of birth in 1955. At that point we can call bullsh** on Phillips having served as a Marine in Vietnam. According to the USMC official history of its involvement in Vietnam:
But by the end of 1970, more Marines were leaving than arriving as replacements. On 14 April 1971, III MAF redeployed to Okinawa, and two months later the last ground troops, the 13,000 men of the 3d MAB, flew out from Da Nang.
Although Marine combat units were no longer in Vietnam, Marine advisors remained to assist the South Vietnamese.
In 1971, Phillips was 16 years old. The earliest he could have enlisted, either as an emancipated minor or with parental consent, was 1972. And Phillips does claim to have enlisted at 17. Junior enlisted guys and junior officers weren’t sent as advisers to Vietnam in the last days of the war, after US ground involvement had essentially halted. A Marine infantry private was not going to go to Vietnam a year after the last Marines left Vietnam.
This Ain’t Hell blog, which hunts out Stolen Valor claims, points out that we aren’t all that sure what Phillips has said about himself. There is no direct quote of Phillips calling himself a Vietnam vet, but, being less charitable than them, I’d point out that several of those articles were undoubtedly run by Phillips to check for accuracy and it doesn’t appear that Phillips ever raised an alarm about being misrepresented. To the contrary, he seems to have know exactly what he was doing in using a variation of Department of Veterans Affairs terminology to confuse the credulous:
In that clip he refers to himself as a “Vietnam times vet,” by which he probably means Vietnam era vet, which is what he is if he did serve in the USMC.
What we know with mathematical certainty is that if Phillips is a veteran, and we really don’t know that at this point though some good guys have requested his DD-214 under FOIA, he did not serve in the Vietnam War. Phillips, in my view, seems eager to toss out the “Vietnam times” identification which could be mistaken, and I would tend to believe that is his intent, for Vietnam War service. Having said that, he doesn’t seem like a deliberate Stolen Valor candidate because there is no record of him actually claiming to have served in Vietnam.
You can judge for yourself whether allowing yourself to be referred to as a Vietnam veteran rather than correcting the record is an honorable act.
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