Massachusetts Republicans seem to have issues with accuracy.
Massachusetts Senator Republican Scott Brown is being called out again for telling voters that he “served in Afghanistan”. Ironically, it was Scott Brown who introduced the 2011 Stolen Valor bill that would penalize the faux fighter who steals the glory from others to obtain some gain. The bill “would make it illegal for individuals to profit by knowingly misrepresenting their military service.”
Republican Vietnam veteran Doug Sterner told the Huffington Post that he thinks Brown’s claim to have served in Afghanistan, “(S)ounds to me like we just got another Blumenthal Connecticut, Mark Kirk type things there.” He added, “I thought it was seriously misleading. I think it does go to an issue of personal character and that concerns me.”
In his recent debate with Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, Brown announced his service, which was actually a two week training event with the National Guard in which he did not face the Taliban, as pointed out by the Boston Globe earlier, “So he was wrong to state, in last week’s debate against challenger Elizabeth Warren, that he ‘served in Afghanistan.’”
Brown is a lawyer with the Guard not a combat troop, and in the past has trained in his home state. He requested to train in Afghanistan, and some claim that he did this so that he could photo op himself in fatigues instead of the dress uniform a lawyer normally wears.
Brown does technically serve the National Guard by training, but he didn’t bother to explain that he faced no enemies while there. Valor is defined as “Courage and boldness, as in battle; bravery.” Thus, to imply you faced battle when you did not is the spirit of Brown’s own bill regarding stealing valor.
The Senator explained, “The Stolen Valor Act of 2011 will ensure that those who misrepresent themselves as heroes, and try to profit from the service and sacrifice of others, are held responsible for their actions.”
“Stolen valor is the theft of our military’s principles of honor, which are measured through the individual sacrifices of our troops on the battlefield,” said William Blight, spokesman for the Middleboro Veterans Council. So, stealing valor is about stealing the sacrifices faced on the battlefield. And that is exactly what Sterner is saying Brown did by claiming he “served in Afghanistan”, when in fact Brown was never on the front lines of a battlefield. Thus, Sterner is suggesting in round about terms that Brown appears to be stealing valor.
According to HuffPo, the Brown campaign responded to Stern’s accusations by pointing to a forward in Brown’s book:
When I returned, it was not as a U.S. Senator but as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army National Guard, sent to complete my annual training at a military base near Kandahar. I dressed in fatigues and battle armor, carried a side arm in my holster, and lived, worked, ate, and slept alongside fellow U.S. soldiers and Guard members.
Brown’s rebuttal is almost more offensive than the original claim, for he sounds like someone playing dress up troop. Dressing in fatigues and donning battle gear for training is not the same thing as being in combat. Nor is eating or working side by side with our troops remotely similar to “serving”. I should know, I’ve done that while they were training.
You do not see combat while training. Your life is not in constant imminent danger. You don’t have to kill the enemy. You don’t have to see your fellow troops shot. You don’t have to see a child point a gun at you. These things matter.
Those who see combat with the Guard rightly claim their service, but training for two weeks is not serving in combat for a year and more, far away from your loved ones — there are no maybes about it. What Brown should have done was highlight that he has witnessed many of the fighting conditions first hand, though from the troops I’ve interviewed, carrying a weapon and shooting it at an enemy under fire are two very different things.
Still, Brown deserves credit for his service – he just needs to clarify that his service is not the equivalent of a combat troops’ service. He needs to make clear that he has not earned the valor of being in battle and he is not trying to mislead people into thinking that he has.
This is the second day in a row that a Republican has falsely equated some other kind of service with actually serving in combat. While all service is worthy on its own, that does not automatically render it the same as serving in the military in the front lines of combat. How could it be the same if it is not the same? You don’t learn everything you need to know about fly fishing by working in a bait shop. There is no replacement for serving in battle — it’s a one of a kind experience. Wearing the gear doesn’t automatically render you brave, or destroy your soul or steal your limbs.
This matters because it’s Republicans who want to start a new war with Iran, and I can’t help but wonder if they think they’ve served (seen war) by serving their Mormon Mission or training in Afghanistan, no wonder it’s so easy for them.
You haven’t seen war until you’ve been there. You haven’t served in combat unless you actually served in combat. It’s offensive and wrong to claim otherwise. Period.
Sterner, who is a Republican, is supporting Brown’s Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, in part because he believes that expanding healthcare is “very much a matter of humanity.”