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Praise for Pat Tillman and some dirty laundry from area vet organizations

Q: What do the Sandpoint VFW and the tragic death of American Hero Pat Tillman have in common?

A: Apparently not a goddamn thing!

Pat Tillman has become one of my newest heroes. Before his combat death in the rugged Afghanistan mountains he’d given up a lucrative contract playing football in the NFL to enlist in the Army Rangers in the days following 9-11. Originally sent to Iraq, his unit helped free American POW Jessica Lynch and from there he was sent to Afghanistan to help root out the Taliban. His death from “friendly fire” helped expose a White House plan to use his demise to bolster support for that war.

The then-White House Director of Communications had previously done a mind-boggling job of transforming the rather mundane “rescue” into the saga of “a petite blond supply clerk from a flea-speck burg in West Virginia is ambushed in Iraq and fearlessly mows down masked fedayeen terrorists with her M-16 until she runs out of ammo. Then she’s shot, stabbed, tortured and raped before being snatched from her barbaric captors during a daring raid by Army Rangers.”

Makes a darned good story, but in truth her dirty rifle jammed and she never fired a shot; her injuries were exclusively the result of her Humvee running into the truck in front of her. She was never shot, stabbed, tortured, or raped and her captors at the hospital treated her with kindness and special care. When the Americans “rescued” her they met no significant resistance. The rescue attempt, in fact, had been put off for a day until a video film crew could be gathered to hastily film the event for American TV. The night before the rescue her doctor “captors” actually put Lynch into an ambulance and tried to drop her off at an American military checkpoint, but nervous US Marines shot at them, forcing them to turn around and take her back to the hospital.

Pat Tillman wrote in his journal that night, “I believe this is just a big PR stunt and screams of media blitz.” He was right; more than 600 stories about Lynch’s rescue appeared in the media, including a hurried book that debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and a made-for-tv movie, “Saving Jessica Lynch,” aired during the important sweeps month for the largest possible audience.

Pat Tillman was right to be cynical; the Lynch saga worked so well the White House would use the same tactics just a year later, only about him.

The new book by Jon Krakauer, “Where Men Win Glory (Doubleday, 2009) the Odyssey of Pat Tillman,” which I’ve quoted from above, is an excellent read and I highly recommend it, but in these days of media spin, screaming yahoos and “You’re a Liar!” politicians, I’d also like to point out a small newsletter sent out recently to members of Sandpoint’s Vietnam Veterans of America (Chap. #890) (among others) by Bill Stevens, head of the local VFW and American Legion organizations.

In this “informational newsletter” Bill quotes a 1944 speech by an American socialist comparing the Democratic Party favorably to communism and he engages in some good-natured “French-bashing.” Asked his sources for the French story in an email he replied, “I heard it in an e-mail. True? False? Who knows?”

I shudder to think of our loosely bound local V.V.A. chapter heading down the same old dying roads of the quasi-military VFW and American Legion Posts. Current V.V.A. President Howard Bigelow (the former VFW head) has already stressed the need for “dress codes” for volunteers helping out at the annual stand-downs and another volunteer was turned away at this year’s rummage sale who’d brought a dog. Iraqi Veterans Against War who were thinking of marching in this year’s 4th of July Parade were given the cold shoulder. When the Disabled Veterans asked for the support of other veterans’ organizations recently in bringing a medical marijuana initiative before the Idaho DAV convention, only the V.V.A. Chapter agreed to support them. Like Bill’s newsletter comparing Democrats to commies, many Democrats and Independents simply don’t feel welcome at the VFW or Legion meetings.

The Vietnam Vets Chapter 890 is the largest and most active in the state. They give a yearly scholarship (this year they gave three) and their financial records are open to the public (as are those of DAV Chapter #15) and they distribute over $10,000 a year to families in need. As readers of this column know, for many years TRJ has been reporting on exactly how much the V.V.A. and DAV raise and exactly how they spend the money. Only the VFW and American Legion have refused to cooperate.

The V.V.A. has donated $1,500 towards replacing the aging DAV van in the last two years; the VFW and American Legion gave nothing. (By comparison, the DAV Chapter donated 100 percent of this year’s forget-me-not drive to the van fund). I’d better quit now before I go ballistic on those weasels. The VFW and American Legion are secretive, quasi-military organizations, as is their right of course, but enough of calling those who don’t agree with you unpatriotic. I just don’t want to see V.V.A. members getting the same hate-filled garbage you send to your own members.

As constant readers may have noticed, Kriss Running-Waters has quit writing the Veterans’ News column, preferring to concentrate on her own writings. I’ll be reluctantly filling in once more for a while but I’d like to take this opportunity to thank her and wish her well. I’m sure she’ll still be doing an occasional article for TRJ. Her two articles in last month’s issue drew raves. Hasta La Vista, Baby! ‘til next time; All Homage to Xena!

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Jody Forest Jody Forest When he's not hidden behind the palatial gates of his Dover estate, Casa de Bozo, Jody is out using outdated and corny pickup lines on various gullible women.

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