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August 20, 2004
War Stories

If there's one military tradition that has endured throughout the ages, it is the telling and retelling of "war stories." In the civilian world, we'd call them "tall tales." There's a saying: the true stories are never exciting, and the exciting stories are never true. Well, almost never, but near enough that it makes for a good rule of thumb.

Regular readers (both of you!) may have noticed that from time to time I'll recount some incident from my time in the service. Those episodes that I choose to tell about (like this one) will only be about the tangential things, never about my core function.

I say again: what you'll never see me do is tell about any of the real-world intelligence missions in which I participated. Apart from the whole issue of classification (I have no idea if anything has ever been or will ever be declassified) those stories are — without fail — exceedingly dull.

One of the essential truths of the matter is that in the military, exciting incidents tend to be deadly. Those who survive are not often likely to retell those stories over and over, except to recount the bravery of one or more of their brothers-in-arms.

The most heroic virtually never tell their own stories; heroes don't claim to be heroic. Sure, on vanishingly rare occasions they do, but generally, no. If I hear someone claiming to be a hero, I make sure my valuables are secure. (Why? See the book Stolen Valor.)

And maybe that's what bugs me most about John Kerry and his campaign. I have no doubt that on occasion he acted nobly, perhaps bravely. He did go into combat, after all. What really irritates me, though, is the unabashed way in which he continually blows his own horn. Even if his reported deeds are all true (about which there is now considerable doubt) it strikes me as thoroughly unbecoming for him to tout them as a qualification for the highest office in the land.

The list of decorated combat veterans who have run for the Presidency is long and distinguished. The list of those who have bragged about their combat decorations is a very short one, indeed.

Of course, given Kerry's Senate record (or lack thereof), I can't say that I really blame him.

Posted by Russ at 08:14 PM, August 20, 2004 in Politics

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I'll sum up my job in two words: Blinky lights!

A few years ago I sat across a desk listening to a man who did not know my background tell me of his James Bond exploits in MI.
Uh, no. MI's a lot of things, but exciting isn't one of them.

Posted by: Donnah at August 20, 2004 08:36 PM

I think you're describing the anti-Alvin York, Russ.

Posted by: George Turner at August 21, 2004 01:02 AM