An Open Letter to Bogus Viet-Nam Veteran Richard Blumenthal
[Andy Martin, who went to Viet-Nam three times as a civilian, provides his own insight into why nations have always bestowed special honors on their combat soldiers and military dead. Martin also links Richard Blumenthal’s lies to Congressman Mark Kirk’s lies and exaggerations concerning Kirk’s “service” in Iraq and Afghanistan.]
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Anthony R. Martin, J. D.
May 21, 2010
U. S. Senate candidate
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Hartford, CT 06106
via fax (203) 560-1522
Dear Mr. Blumenthal:
I know you don’t want to step down as a candidate for U. S. Senator. But the shock waves from the taped evidence in which you exaggerated your military service will be a dagger pointed at Connecticut Democrats until November. I am a Republican. But this is not a partisan letter.
Rather, this letter is one from a co-generationist. I did go to Viet-Nam. And Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. But I went as a civilian. I probably saw more combat that many who were “in country.” But that does not entitle me to lie about my record any more than it entitles you to do the same.
I come from a family of spooks and soldiers on both sides. And so there was always an expectancy I would enter the family business. My father was a decorated officer. So were my grandfather, and a great-grandfather. And there’s more.
Major J. D. Falk, one of the regular officers at the University of Illinois had been a very brave fighter pilot in Korea. He wanted me in the cockpit in the worst possible way. I was classified 1-P, set for pilot training, and set for an eventual commission in the Air Force. But during the summer of 1965 I spent time alone in England and Scotland. I realized I brought very little to the cockpit. My talents lay in the collection and analysis of information, not holding a rudder and handling a throttle. And so I chose a different path.
The year 1967 found me in Viet-Nam, And 1968. And 1970. While someone actually gave me a pistol, and I learned how to break down the weapon and strip an M-16 I was always conscious of the separation between the men who did the shooting and the people who performed other tasks. I know that if we had been overrun out in the boondocks I would have picked up a rifle and killed. I had no moral compunctions about killing.
Because of my dad’s role, and my Uncle Bill’s, I had read every book on World War II in the Oxford (England) public Library. But until you experience war up front, in the face, you have no idea what you are about to see, hear, feel and ultimately retain within you.
I can vividly remember the first time I came under fire. I remember the day I went to Graves Registration with Captain Chuck (later Governor/Senator) Robb. A Lieutenant Hale had been killed the day before when Hale made a false step and triggered a mine. Lt. Hale was reduced to a few scraps of flesh and bone.
In Cambodia I remember seeing the bodies of “enemy” Cambodians that had been killed by government soldiers. They had been butchered and dumped on a truck like sides of beef.
And then there were the “Saigon Commandoes,” military troops stationed in Saigon who had mamasans and laundry misses and lived a life of luxury. They were “in Viet-Nam” but not “of Viet-Nam.” But I still afford and accord them the honor, because danger was never more than a footstep away. I lived at the Majestic Hotel in downtown Saigon, where Peter Kann, later publisher of the Wall Street Journal, was one of my neighbors. But I spent as much time as possible in I Corps.
I remember the coffin of a Vietnamese soldier draped with his flag, sitting on the runway at Dong Ha. His wife sat on the coffin and wailed uncontrollably. That weeping was in the days when many Americans still held to the racist belief that “Asians care less for life than we do.” In that moment I realized they didn’t. Her wails are still with me. I can still see her sitting there alone, crying on the coffin as darkness descended.
War, combat, firefights, shooting, bombing and killing of every sort changes us. Some men become addicted. Some break. Some go home with seemingly negligible aftereffects. But there is one common denominator. Few who have seen killing up front enjoy talking about it.
After decades of looking at the past I still can’t tell you which man (or woman) will break, and which one won’t. But men do break. I remember walking into a jungle crawling with North Vietnamese soldiers, and looking for them. One night that I will never forget the clouds closed in. It rained. Choppers were grounded. Perfect conditions to be overrun. We sat and waited for the inevitable attack, which didn’t come.
Later, during the worst night of my life, in Iran in 1979, I was arrested as a spy. When the komiteh, a sort of neighborhood vigilante, had his gunman turn an AK-47 on me I knew the end was close. But I managed to walk away the next day. I can still see the man with the rifle pointed in my direction. I know what he looks like. I could draw him. And yet I went back, back to Iran. Back to Afghanistan. Alone, and always afraid.
Iraq was more of the same. Friends blown up. Danger everywhere. I was lucky again. The only difference between Baghdad and Saigon was that there were no “Baghdad Commandoes.” In a great mistake, the U. S. Military segregated itself from the Iraqi people, and allowed the insurgency to take root in the vacuum.
Men who have been in combat as soldiers or Marines do not take lightly to stolen valor. I know why. There is a special bond among those who put their lives on the line, voluntarily or involuntarily (under the draft). To be sure, not everyone in Viet-Nam or Iraq was “in combat.” But they were always in danger.
And so now we come to your imaginary combat career as someone who “served in” and “returned” from Viet-Nam. You tried to steal a little bit of the valor earned by men who served. Former Congressman Chris Shays is a decent man, a conscientious objector, and he knows you well. He detailed how your exaggerations grew from decade to decade, as memories dimmed and the real veterans aged and died or became disabled:
I have followed your career from a distance for decades. You are a careerist on the left not unlike Congressman Mark Kirk on the “right” (or “somewhere”).
Like you, Mark Kirk was/”is” also in the military. And like you Mark Kirk is guilty of stolen valor. Kirk shamelessly exploits and exaggerates his military activity. And, like you, up until now Kirk has gotten away with his lies. The insipid and corrupt Illinois news media have covered up Kirk’s exaggerations which are similar to your own. And Kirk will pay the same price you are paying later in this election season.
Both of you have shamelessly and relentlessly polished your resumes, like buttons on a uniform, the same way Bill Clinton did. And, ironically, both you and Kirk are running for the senate this year.
So where do we go from here? There is no easy answer. Having pursued the brass ring all your life, you are loath to walk away from the prize. I think a real Marine would walk away.
Your “defense” of your lies was more of an “offense” than an apology. You need a lesson in humility. The type of humility you learn in real combat, under fire. Your belligerent defense will not sit well with veterans, notwithstanding your misuse of the VFW hall and a few Democratic Party military hacks that were rounded up to surround you at your news conference.
Finally, there is your son. What message will you send him, what legacy will you leave him if you claim that it is acceptable to lie and then take “full responsibility” for your lies? Won’t you also be stealing a little bit of him? Win or lose in November?
The ongoing reaction to your “misspeakings” will be long and slow and explosive. The issue is not going away.
Should you pull out? I think you should give the option serious thought. You could run again in two years and say you benefited from the gap in your career. You needed “time to be with yourself.”
I have never been a careerist, which, I suppose, is the real mark of a soldier or a spook. We know that a “career” can end in a split second, with one false step on a mine (in Viet-Nam) or an IAD in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I have never lied about being a soldier in Viet-Nam, which is why I can unhesitatingly relate some of my experiences there without a fear of being “found out” as an imposter.
I am what I am. For better or worse.
What, and who, are you? You need to find out. Today.