Defending John Kerry – Or Maybe Not

There has been a growing controversy about John Kerry’s Silver Star. The problem lies with the fact that Kerry’s DD214 says he got a “Silver Star with combat V” for Valor. That’s a problem because combat V’s are not awarded on Silver Stars, only Bronze Stars.

So he’s nailed right? Kerry claims he got an award that does not exist, right? Wrong. I’m not a liberal moonbat and I’m certainly not Kos.

If you google “silver star with valor” you will see the very first link is “Soldier Awarded Silver Star with Valor” from a Dept. of Defense website. So how do they reconcile?

The Silver Star is a valor award. By definition it is given for valor, so no ‘V’ is required. So it looks like his DD214 was typed by the “Department of Redundancy Department.” Things like this are not uncommon, a government facility near here has what the workers call the ‘VAB Building.’ VAB stands for ‘Vertical Assembly Building’ so when workers are in effect calling it the ‘The Vertical Assembly Building Building.’

I think we have an issue of semantics or a confused typist, not a true problem with Kerry’s DD214. Things like this are not uncommon. Or I thought that.

The Sun Times however has a piece today that raises some interesting questions…

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Plot thickens after checking records

In the midst of the controversy between the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and Kerry campaign representatives about Kerry’s service in Vietnam, new questions have arisen.

**V for valor stuff clipped**

Fake claims not uncommon

B.G. Burkett, a Vietnam veteran himself, received the highest award the Army gives to a civilian, the Distinguished Civilian Service Award, for his book Stolen Valor. Burkett pored through thousands of military service records, uncovering phony claims of awards and fake claims of military service. “I’ve run across several claims for Silver Stars with combat V’s, but they were all in fake records,” he said.

Burkett recently filed a complaint that led last month to the sentencing of Navy Capt. Roger D. Edwards to 115 days in the brig for falsification of his records.

Kerry’s Web site also lists two different citations for the Silver Star. One was issued by the commander in chief of the Pacific Command (CINCPAC), Adm. John Hyland. The other, issued by Secretary of the Navy John Lehman during the Reagan administration, contained some revisions and additional language. “By his brave actions, bold initiative, and unwavering devotion to duty, Lieutenant (j.g.) Kerry reflected great credit upon himself… .”

One award, three citations

But a third citation exists that appears to be the earliest. And it is not on the Kerry campaign Web site. It was issued by Vice Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, commander of U.S. naval forces in Vietnam. This citation lacks the language in the Hyland citation or that added by the Lehman version, but includes another 170 words in a detailed description of Kerry’s attack on a Viet Cong ambush, his killing of an enemy soldier carrying a loaded rocket launcher, as well as military equipment captured and a body count of dead enemy.

Maj. Anthony Milavic, a retired Marine Vietnam veteran, calls the issuance of three citations for the same medal “bizarre.” Milavic hosts Milinet, an Internet forum popular with the military community that is intended “to provide a forum in military/political affairs.”

Normally in the case of a lost citation, Milavec points out, the awardee simply asked for a copy to be sent to him from his service personnel records office where it remains on file. “I have never heard of multi-citations from three different people for the same medal award,” he said. Nor has Burkett: “It is even stranger to have three different descriptions of the awardee’s conduct in the citations for the same award.”

So far, there are also two varying citations for Kerry’s Bronze Star, one by Zumwalt and the other by Lehman as secretary of the Navy, both posted on johnkerry.com.

Kerry’s Web site also carries a DD215 form revising his DD214, issued March 12, 2001, which adds four bronze campaign stars to his Vietnam service medal. The campaign stars are issued for participation in any of the 17 Department of Defense named campaigns that extended from 1962 to the cease-fire in 1973.

However, according to the Navy spokesman, Kerry should only have two campaign stars: one for “Counteroffensive, Phase VI,” and one for “Tet69, Counteroffensive.”

94 pages of records unreleased?

Reporting by the Washington Post’s Michael Dobbs points out that although the Kerry campaign insists that it has released Kerry’s full military records, the Post was only able to get six pages of records under its Freedom of Information Act request out of the “at least a hundred pages” a Naval Personnel Office spokesman called the “full file.”

What could that more than 100 pages contain? Questions have been raised about President Bush’s drill attendance in the reserves, but Bush received his honorable discharge on schedule. Kerry, who should have been discharged from the Navy about the same time — July 1, 1972 — wasn’t given the discharge he has on his campaign Web site until July 13, 1978. What delayed the discharge for six years? This raises serious questions about Kerry’s performance while in the reserves that are far more potentially damaging than those raised against Bush.

Experts point out that even the official military records get screwed up. Milavic is trying to get mistakes in his own DD214 file corrected. In his opinion, “these entries are not prima facie evidence of lying or unethical behavior on the part of Kerry or anyone else with screwed-up DD214s.”

Burkett, who has spent years working with the FBI, Department of Justice and all of the military services uncovering fraudulent files in the official records, is less charitable: “The multiple citations and variations in the official record are reason for suspicion in itself, even disregarding the current swift boat veterans’ controversy.”

Frankly I don’t know what to think. I nuked the first argument but the other’s I’m not so sure about. Military records are notoriously sloppy. But unlike the Bush AWOL records, there really are some curious anomalies here. How one gets three different citations, a decade or more apart, for a single award puzzles me.

One thing is clear, the drumbeat for Kerry to release his military records is only going to get louder. As well it should.

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