SHIP THE WANNABES TO KOSOVO
DAVID H. HACKWORTH
Over the years, Mount Holyoke's Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Professor Joseph
J. Ellis has enthralled his students with war stories about his exploits on the
beaches of Tuy Hoa and in the jungles around Anh Khe back when he was a platoon
leader in the mighty 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam.
Having spent four years in the proud 101st and one year in "Tim's Traveling
Trouble" 1st Brigade in Vietnam, it puzzled me that I'd never heard of the
learned Ph.D. Believe me, a paratrooper with a Ph.D. is someone the grunts talk
about. And in '65, the 1/101st was a very tight outfit, most of us having served
together at Fort Campbell before we went to Vietnam. But when I checked with many
scarred mates who served in the famed brigade, they, too, drew a blank when it
came to brave Platoon Leader Ellis.
Now the hero-soldier-turned-academic-turned-author (who claims that Thomas Jefferson
fathered a child with Sally Hemmings) has been proven a liar and a fraud -- and
my 1st Brigade pals uniformly want his head at the end of a pike. "The puke's
danced on the graves of all my friends who didn't come back and diminished all
of our deeds," 101st vet and dear friend retired Army Col. Ben Willis raged.
Meanwhile, Mount Holyoke is standing by its man. Bet your jump boots if my son
were still attending one of the Five Colleges, he wouldn't be sitting in this
Then there's basketball-jock-cum-clown Dennis Rodman, who was recently photographed
wearing a U.S. Army green jacket ablaze with four rows of ribbons, including the
Combat Infantryman Badge with a star indicating he'd fought as a grunt in two
major wars. A check with a friend at St. Louis' National Personnel Records Center
indicates that basketball threads are the only uniform the blond tattooed one's
entitled to wear. And by flaunting undeserved awards, this muscled buffoon falls
into the same category as Ellis.
My blood especially boiled when I saw Rodman wearing the CIB, an award treasured
above all others by many infantry combat vets, this one included. To us, the CIB
is a badge of honor, a symbol of great sacrifice. And, to add insult to injury,
Rodman had it on upside-down!
Claiming false service or wearing unauthorized awards denigrates the service,
patriotism and gallantry of all who have served. B.G. Burkett's brilliant book
"Stolen Valor" depicts scores of sickos like Ellis and Rodman, many
of whom have become "the object of award-winning documentaries on national
network television ... who have flooded major publishing houses with false tales
of heroism which have become best-selling biographies."
Many of the frauds Burkett outed wore Medals of Honor and other valor awards they
didn't earn. Many conned their way into the U.S. Congress and other positions
of trust with bona fides based on their fake honors and resumes.
Why a person becomes a warrior wannabe is food for the shrinks, but what concerns
me more is the public's indifference. Apparently, it counts more that Ellis is
a good teacher and Rodman a good athlete than that they're bad role models.
Or maybe there's no outcry because many Americans can no longer tell the difference
between fact and fiction. Look at the movie "Pearl Harbor." The kids
who saw it probably think Japan was on our side.
And besides Hollywood-type distortions, the nation is suffering media overload
from the 24/7 intense hype we get on the tube -- where reality shows are carefully
choreographed fiction, and wars and executions have theme songs and logos.
Maybe the Ellises and Rodmans aren't big-enough celebrities for the media to really
run with. If they'd been a Clinton or the Bush girls, Peter Jennings would've
been zapping them rather than breathlessly recounting the sizzling bit of breaking
news that Timothy McVeigh's death certificate listed his occupation as a soldier.
If we don't stop putting down our soldiers and start protecting their honors and
service -- perhaps by passing a law sentencing all warrior wannabes to hard time
clearing mines with a bayonet someplace as cruel and dangerous as Kosovo -- then
somewhere down the line, we'll lose our liberty because no one will be motivated
any longer to defend America.
Http://www.hackworth.com is the address of David Hackworth's home page. Sign in
for the free weekly Defending America column at his Web site. Send mail to P.O.
Box 5210, Greenwich, CT 06831.
(c) 2001 David H. Hackworth
Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.