I joined the Navy in 1973 only because I needed a way to pay for Medical School. I wasn’t necessarily patriotic. Growing up and going to college in Ohio I was exposed to the campus unrest and violent demonstrations on college campuses like Kent State and Oberlin and Antioch. Like most college kids the war in Viet Nam was always on our minds, but always far away. My first exposure to the real military was my third year in Medical School when I had to spend 3 months at Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Virginia. My first patients were young active-duty Marines and Sailors and older Navy pilots who had been POWs. Included in that group were Stanfield Turner, Jeremiah Denton, and for a few days Cmdr. John McCain who was at Portsmouth for a Medical Disability Board. That was when I became a patriot.
I knew then that I wanted part of my medical and surgery career to include serving people who put their own lives on hold and on the line to protect me and my family. I have always told people that inquired about my service that I was only in harm’s way myself for two brief instances—one because of my own stupidity and arrogance. I have always said that as a surgeon and physician “I served those who served” In my own mind anyone who chooses to serve in the military is a hero, but we all understood that there were a group who were always “the tip of the spear”. They were the ones who trained for combat. They were the ones who were flying jets—have you ever witnessed in person a carrier landing? While serving with the Marines at Camp Lejeune I was deployed for two weeks supporting a Marine Recon Unit with my unit called FLEET SERVICE SUPPORT GROUP. Included in this group were doctors and nurses and med techs. Supply officers and enlisted personnel, JAG Corps (lawyers) engineers, military intelligence officers and other support personnel. The medical people were stationed in a field hospital—in the Army, these are called MASH units. The others in the “rear guard” were behind the lines at headquarters.
I mention this not to demean the service of the support personnel, it was all of our honor to serve those in harm’s way, but to point out that those claiming the valor of the people at the front for their own is wrong—but not uncommon. 99% of those who enlist in our armed services do so for honorable reasons—maybe a little less than that number amongst the officers. Judging motives is wrong and complicated, but there were always a few officers who wanted to claim valor—many times asking to go out on maneuvers during a benign safe mission in the field, so they could go home and claim that they themselves had actually seen combat. In the Navy we called these people ‘Kerrie’s” after John Kerry who remained infamous in the Navy for his false claims of valor.
In everyday life, we see people like this who want to be part of the glory without paying the price. On my college football team, we called such people “dummy scrimmage heroes” because they would sneak around in practice, get information about the scout teams play, and then look good for the coaches, without ever having to put themselves or their reputation on the line or metaphorically speaking in harm’s way.
Pete Buttigieg is such a person. He continually claims personal courage for his time spent “outside the wire” during his service in Afghanistan. He was an intelligence officer, not a line officer. Anytime “outside the line” for such an Officer would have to have been under the safest and most benign of conditions. He wasn’t trained for combat and the presence of such people in the field really pisses off the true heroes whose own lives are placed in greater danger because they have to look out for the non-combatants in their presence.
Pete Buttigieg is no more of a warrior than me. We both should be proud of our service, but neither one of us has a claim of valor or personal courage based on what our responsibilities were when we served. Same with “Bo” Bidden who was a JAG Officer. His service should be also honored but the valor claimed of him by a father who never served himself is wrong. If Joe Biden had served, he would understand this.
Donald Trump never served, but he has never tried to hide his actions during the Viet Nam War behind the false valor of a family member. He has always expressed respect for those that served then and now. What I truly believe is that the motives of anyone who makes heroic claims for themselves should be suspect. Donald Trump has always publicly and privately respected the sacrifice and service of those serving in the military. He has never met with grieving parents in Dover and said “we did all we could do to save your child’s life” like Hilary Clinton and President Obama said after Bengasi. He has never made the false claim of flying into a military base while under enemy fire like Hilary Clinton did.
The story about our President’s comments demeaning the military while in Paris are from unnamed sources and have been refuted by 11 people who were present at the time—all named. The calumnious contempt by an uncurious media says more about them and their own lack of respect for the ethics of their profession than it does about our President. It would not surprise me to find out that one of the sources is a former military General with an axe to grind—maybe he was fired or was asked to resign. Remember Abigail Adams’ words to her husband John when Sally Hemmings was identified as Thomas Jefferson’s mistress: “The right truth, at the right place, about the right person, by the right person at the right time, for the right reason”.
For the liberal press to use Pete Buttigieg as an authority about courage and valor in the field is the same as using John Kerry. Like more than a few officers, they have leveraged the false valor of their military service for a political entre that they don’t deserve. This is wrong for them to assert this claim of valor and privilege, but it is also wrong for the press to not differentiate between what true valor is and what it is not. Today in our military there are too many dummy scrimmage heroes and this goes from the lowest enlisted to the highest-ranked officers. The service of the 99% who are true patriots is tainted by these “faux stories” of courage and service.
Pete Buttigieg has no claim of valor, neither do I, or John Kerry, or Bo Biden (Unit Citation aside), or Daddy “Hidden Joe Biden”, or Donald Trump. John McCain does and so do the thousands who have been and are “the tip of the spear”. In the end, we can only judge their actions and speculate about their motives.