“I Remember Landing Under Sniper Fire”

The Iraq-War veterans are “insulted”. In March, CBS “exposed” Hillary Clinton for her “mis-statement” about her Bosnia 1996 trip: “I remember landing under sniper fire … Instead, we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles.”

As further proof that Presidential campaigns inevitably devolve down into minutae, mis-statements and trivia, Clinton was lambasted for what turned out to be obviously quite different that what she said she remembered from that time. Whether we think she lied, or “mis-spoke”, would seem to align closely with the political party we belong to.

The issue has been cussed and dis-cussed. It is still raging strong. A Presidential candidate should choose words carefully, expecially around the media, political enemies, and veterans. I’ve found that veterans tend to act like they “own” the ultimate truthes concerning war, military conflict or any combat issue, and they form a pretty effective grassroots political action group (PAC), as Sen. Kerry learned the hard way.

I have a slightly different take. I do hope Sen. Clinton learned from her mistake. I’m still willing to give her some benefit of the doubt. As an untutored civilian, I question whether Ms. Clinton had much of an idea at all what was really going on around her, and I have no doubt she feared for her safety. With no training in the event she actually came under fire, she ought to have feared for her life.

I’m a war veteran. Consider my own experience as a noncombat soldier in VietNam (Signal Corps):

  • Our remote compound was protected only by a sentry, a wire fence and a lot of 5′ sandbag enbankments
  • We worked every day within a few yards of 50,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel storage
  • In a year, we had several high security alerts, but no “strikes”
  • bodies were flown into the local airfield about once a week, stacked like cord-wood on helicopter runner blades
  • We safely completed a three-province, one week convoy, delivering rice and electronics, through known “VC territory”
  • the next convoy was wiped out to a man
  • I was never shot at, and never won a medal

Was I scared at times? You bet. Was I a war veteran? The US Army says so. Did I ever run for cover with my head down? Nope. Do I call myself a war hero? Nope. Do I talk about those days any more? Only to others who were there. They understand.

When speaking before special interest groups, choose your words carefully. Chances are, unless you’re one of them, they understand the topic better than you do.

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