In January, newly appointed VA Secretary Robert McDonald spent the evening on the streets of LA greeting homeless men and women and identifying those who were veterans in possible need of assistance. His efforts were documented by a television crew and later reported on “The CBS Evening News.” Much to the embarrassment of Secretary McDonald and the beleaguered VA, what was meant as a boost for the suffering image of his agency has now turned into calls for his resignation.
The cause of Secretary McDonald’s sudden turmoil center around a simple exchange with a homeless veteran, consisting of a hand shake and a few short sentences which included McDonald stating he had served in the Special Forces (minute 1:10 of below video).
Of course a quick review of the Secretary’s official biography shows that this is not true and that has resulted in numerous veterans, including the leaders of several national organizations which routinely partner with the VA, to call for not only an apology but a new Secretary.
But what really happened? Does the short clip tell the whole story or is this simply a misunderstanding?
Let me ensure you that I have no respect for those who would lie about having served in the military or who embellish their service record by wearing undeserved awards or making false claims of valor. Whether you were a private or a general, serving on the front line or the chow line, every honest veteran has done more than many of their friends or neighbors will ever do. There is simply no reason to replace fact with fiction other than to impress those who do not know better. However, I do not believe that Secretary McDonald embellished or lied. I think he made a poor choice rooted in good intentions.
First, the Secretary has no reason to lie, and if he did, had no reason to believe he would get away with it. His official biography is readily available on the VA website and has been widely reported during his confirmation. He graduated from West Point (class of 1975) in the top 2% of his class followed by 5 years of active duty service, during which time he served with the distinguished 82nd Airborne. While on active duty he completed Jungle, Artic and Desert Warfare training, earned a Ranger Tab, Expert Infantry Badge, Sr. Parachutist Wings and a Meritorious Service Medal.
Second, there is the apology issued by the VA and explanation by McDonald during a televised news conference. McDonald stated “There is no excuse; I was not in Special Forces. While I was in LA, engaging a homeless individual to determine his veteran status, I asked the man where he had served in the military. He responded that he had served in Special Forces. I incorrectly stated I had been in Special Forces. That was an inaccurate statement and I apologize to anyone that was offended by my statement.” He further explained his misstatement as being not an attempt to claim status he was not entitled to but a misguided attempt to identify with a veteran in need.
I have never met Secretary McDonald and have no reason to believe him any more than any politician. But, I do. I believe that although his statement was misguided and the result of poor judgment, it was not an act of Stolen Valor. However, only time will tell if his actions can be overlooked during a time when more than one high profile figure had made similar claims for the purpose of personal glory.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.