WASHINGTON -- This year falling on May 15, Armed Forces Day was designated in 1949 to recognize active-duty soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines. Memorial Day, now a "nearest Monday" federal holiday, has been observed at the end of the month since 1868 in tribute to America's war dead. It's ironic that this year, these two dates celebrating those who serve in our nation's uniform are bookends for a political candidate accused of inflating his claims of military service.
On May 17, The New York Times, The Associated Press and just about every other news outlet on the planet made it known that Richard Blumenthal, the attorney general of Connecticut and a candidate for the U.S. Senate, has made a habit of portraying himself as a veteran of the Vietnam War. He is quoted as having told a Connecticut veterans group in March 2008, "We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam." At a Veterans Day event later that year, he said, "I wore the uniform in Vietnam, and many came back to all kinds of disrespect." He has emotionally recalled being "spat on" and claimed, "We couldn't wear our uniforms (when) we returned from Vietnam." On other occasions, he apparently has reflected on "the taunts, the insults, sometimes even physical abuse" he suffered after coming back from Vietnam. At a 2003 rally of support for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, "When we returned, we saw nothing like this," and he often has made reference to "the days that (he) served in Vietnam." Unfortunately, none of this is true. Jane Fonda has more time on the ground in Vietnam than Blumenthal.
Confronted by the evidence that he never really was deployed overseas, the Senate candidate called a news conference to say, "I regret that I misspoke on those occasions. I take full responsibility." He went on to explain to reporters that his claims to have served in Vietnam were "absolutely unintentional" and "a few misplaced words." That affront to those who really did serve -- and who now serve in harm's way -- was apparently acceptable to those who stood beside the attorney general in his Mark Sanford moment.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.