I heard a news story today about a politician from Massachusetts who is an up and coming star in his party. Part of the reason he is on the rise has to do with his military experience. He was awarded the Bronze Star and another medal for valor during the Iraq War, but did not tell anyone he received those awards…not even his family. A news outlet discovered the awards when they were trying to dig up dirt about his campaign. When asked why he didn’t tell anyone, the gentleman said he didn’t think those stories needed to be boasted about because that would have demeaned the acts and acts even more brave than his.
Unfortunately, now that the story is out the politician is using it to promote his campaign. He’s cheapening the act for political gain and calling into question the values he represented by not telling anyone before the reporter found out about the awards.
I remember asking both my grandfathers about their experiences in World War II. Naively, I asked even more fervently after watching movies about the war and hoping they’d tell me if their experience was similar to the fiction on the screen. But they never said anything. Never. They didn’t want to belittle their actions or those of their generation by telling their story. They also didn’t want to relive the pain of their experiences because it was too much to bear. For good reason, they never spoke about their experiences. I respect my grandfathers more than they ever knew for their silence.
I’ve known many relatives and friends who have served in wars and combat operations since then…Korea, Viet Nam, Grenada, Iraq, Afghanistan. To a person, I can tell who really saw combat and who is stretching the truth based on the stories they tell….or don’t.