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Oct 23, 2006
Legion chief alters line on war service

By Walter V. Robinson, Globe Correspondent | December 3, 2006

When Paul A. Morin , the national commander of the American Legion, sought
election to the office in August, he described himself in the lead sentence
of his campaign biography as a "Vietnam veteran of the US Army." Since he
was elected Aug. 31, the Legion's website has featured the same description.

And when Morin testified before the House Veterans' Affairs Committee Sept.
20, US Representative Steve Buyer , Republican of Indiana, introduced him as
an Army veteran of Vietnam. Morin registered no objection, according to the
hearing transcript.

And three months ago, Morin said he hopes that servicemen returning from
Iraq will be treated better than those who returned from Vietnam. "When we
came home, life was a little different. We do not want to see any veteran
ever returning to what we did, so we'll be there to be welcoming them home
with open arms," Morin said, according to a transcript of his interview with
the Pentagon Channel , the Defense Department's television network.

But the only place Morin ever returned from was Fort Dix, N.J. According to
his military records, Morin spent his entire two years of Army service, from
1972 to 1974, at that Army training base . In fact, before he sought the
coveted one-year term as national president of the country's largest
veterans' organization, Morin was content to be known as a "Vietnam-era"
veteran -- a signal to other veterans that he did not serve in Vietnam.

Morin, in a telephone interview on Thursday, defended his decision to
describe himself as a Vietnam veteran when he ran for Legion president.
Neither the US government nor the Legion itself makes a formal distinction
between veterans who served in Vietnam and those, like himself, who did not.

"I am a Vietnam veteran," Morin, a Massachusetts resident with a senior
state government position, declared. He said there is no need for his Legion
biography to make it clear that he did not serve in Vietnam.

The Legion's principal spokesman, Joe March , yesterday defended Morin's
right to the label. As far as the Legion is concerned, March said, any
current service member stationed in the United States could claim to be an
Iraq War veteran.

But Morin's description flouts long-standing and widely accepted protocol
among veterans -- that only those who served in the Vietnam theater between
1964 and 1975 should call themselves Vietnam veterans.

Even Morin's five immediate predecessors as national president made it clear
they had not served in Vietnam. Just 3.4 million men and women served in the
Vietnam theater, which included the Gulf of Tonkin, Laos, Cambodia, and
Thailand. Of those, 2.6 million served in South Vietnam. There are more than
5 million other veterans who served elsewhere during those years.

Veterans who know of Morin's claim to be a Vietnam veteran expressed
disbelief and dismay that someone so deeply embedded in the veterans'
culture would lay claim to Vietnam veteran status.

Former US Senator Max Cleland of Georgia, who lost both legs and an arm in
Vietnam, and who has been a Legion member since 1969, expressed concern in
an interview on Friday that by inflating his résumé, Morin has undercut the
credibility of veterans' groups as they seek congressional support for
underfunded veterans' programs.

"For the national commander of the American Legion, who never even served in
the Vietnam theater, to call himself a Vietnam veteran is a lie," Cleland

Cleland, who headed the Veterans Administration during the Carter
administration, expressed incredulity at Morin's and March's justification
for the claim. "This is the American Legion hierarchy changing the rules in
the middle of the game, solely to try to cover the [expletive] of the
national commander now that he's become an embarrassment to the
organization, " Cleland said.

Thomas G. Kelley , the Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans Affairs, who was
awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in Vietnam, said that Morin is being
"disingenuous. When someone says he is a Vietnam veteran, it means he served
in the theater of the war. One would infer from his bio that he served in

Jim Skiba , a Legion member from Holyoke who was wounded three times in
Vietnam, said he is so upset with Morin that he is considering abandoning
his membership. "For our national leader to be portraying himself as
something he is not is a disgrace," Skiba said in an interview.

Morin, who lives in Chicopee, is perhaps best known in Massachusetts for his
day job: He is the superintendent of the Soldier's Home in Holyoke , a
state-run facility for needy veterans that has 317 beds. He is on unpaid
leave from the position, for which he was paid $110,423 in 2005. The Legion,
for his one-year term, pays him a $100,000 stipend plus expenses.

The warrior mantle Morin has donned is new: When he was the ranking member
of the Legion's Massachusetts Department, the state website correctly
identified him as a Vietnam-era veteran who had been a supply technician and
lineman stationed in New Jersey.

But that changed this year with Morin's campaign brochure. Under the
headline, "The American Legion Department of Massachusetts Proudly Presents
Paul A. Morin for National Commander," it described him as a Vietnam veteran
in the first line.

The "Vietnam era" reference is no longer on the state website. The Legion's
national website put up a biography describing Morin as a "Vietnam veteran
of the U S Army." The lead paragraph on the Legion's news release
proclaimed: "A U S Army Vietnam veteran from Chicopee, Mass., has been
elected national commander of the nation's largest veterans ' organization. "

March said he wrote the news release and the website biography with Morin's
approval. "I asked him, 'Is this fine with you?', and he said, 'Great,' "
March said.

In October, even the Massachusetts Legion publication, The Legionnaire,
identified Morin as a Vietnam veteran. The only reference to Morin's
stateside service has been a brief mention deep in a profile of him that
appeared in the Legion's monthly magazine the same month.

But the "Vietnam veteran" moniker has created an indelible imprint. As Morin
travels the country speaking to Legion groups, news accounts -- from
Indiana, Ohio, and New York -- regularly describe him as a Vietnam veteran.

His Vietnam status is also highlighted in notices of his upcoming
appearances. California's American Legion department is trumpeting Morin's
visit to Legion facilities there starting on Dec. 11 -- complete with the
Vietnam claim. The Legion's state convention in Ohio in January has Morin,
as Vietnam veteran, as its featured speaker.

According to Morin's military and Selective Service records, he was an
unlucky 18-year-old when the draft lottery was held in 1971. His birthdate
was number 36, making it virtually certain he would be conscripted. In June
1972, he was ordered to report for induction. He enlisted, for a two-year
period, the next month -- and spent the two years at Fort Dix. He was
awarded a marksman's badge and -- like everyone else who served honorably in
the military -- a National Defense Service Medal.

With the biography as backdrop, Morin's public statements can leave an
erroneous impression. Asked, for example, about his statement about how he
was treated when he came home, Morin said he believes that even servicemen
who returned home from New Jersey were shunned.

During an October visit to an American Legion post in Indiana, Morin said,
according to a newspaper report: "One thing we must never do, that was done
during my war, is to separate the warrior from the war."

Morin, who confirmed that he made the remark, said he did not intend it to
mean that he served in Vietnam. "By 'my war,' I meant the war that occurred
during the period of time I was in the military," he said.

From: Public Relations Division
Date: Dec 4, 2006 8:37 AM
Subject: RE: Contact via the legion.org webpage from (a veteran)
To: (a veteran's email)

Boston Globe Discloses Best-kept
Non-secret in Massachusetts

By Jake Comer, Past National Commander, The American Legion

National Commander Paul A. Morin has dedicated his life to the service of veterans and their families. He has never made any secret of where or when he served because we believe all military service is honorable. For the Boston Globe to accuse him of "inflating his resume" is more than a question of semantics; it's down right despicable.

We make no such distinction for World War II veterans or Korean War veterans. And the Legion has never made such a distinction for Vietnam veterans.

A lot of those who were actually in-country in Vietnam never saw a shot fired in anger. They were, as the guys in the bush said: "In the rear with the gear." Did that make the service of most Intelligence officers, Jag officers, or supply people any more or less honorable than that of the fellow firing a weapon? Were they less "Vietnam Veteran" than anyone else? I don't think so.

You're a veteran of the Vietnam War because Title 38 says you are and, as a result, each of you is entitled to the same benefits for honorable military service during a time of war. It doesn't matter where you served; you could have been in the Fulda Gap, on ship in the Med, or a remote base in Thule, Greenland - you still did your duty.

Of course, those guys who weren't on the front were praying for those that were, but none of us - no matter what war we were in - considered ourselves any less of a soldier than anyone else. We did what we were told and we served where we were sent.

At the very least, what we have here in the Boston Globe is yet another attempt to divide veterans into those worthy of recognition and benefits and those not so worthy of recognition and, consequently, benefits. This is the old "core constituency" argument come home in yet another disguise.

Paul Morin has never purported to be anything other than a Vietnam veteran - one who served during the 15 years of the Vietnam War. He has never claimed to be a combat veteran, highly decorated, or any thing more than precisely what he is: an American who served honorably during a period of armed conflict.

As far as I am concerned: "A veteran is a veteran." Paul Morin's service is the biggest non-secret, non-story around.

We should stop playing semantics about where one veteran served and start worrying about what America is going to do to take care of the health care needs of veterans past, present and future regardless of where they served or when they served. The VA system is staffed with some of the finest, most dedicated people in the world, yet they don't have the funding necessary to get the job done the way it ought to be done.

That's what the Boston Globe should be writing about instead of muckraking a veteran who served, and continues to serve, honorably.

# # #

Jake Comer of Quincy, Mass. served as National Commander of The American Legion from i987 to 1988.

Verification: Contact: Ramona Joyce, (202)263-2982, Cell: (202) 445-1161 or Joe March, (317) 630-1253, Cell: (317) 748-1926.

Granted the Legion does not make the distinction between Nam Vets and Nam Era Vets, however, why would someone call themselves an Era Vet for years and then after gaining an office such as National Commander suddenly change that? It has been a long standing policy among Nam Vets that there is a distinction between the two categories of veterans. If you did not serve in Vietnam you don't call yourself a Vietnam Vet. What the veterans of WWII or Korea do has nothing to do with what Nam Vets do. There weren't there when we came home welcoming us with open arms to join the American Legion or VFW were they? No, in fact they said we didn't qualify, didn't fight in a war, thus, could not join. Now they want to associate themselves with us and even tell us a vet is a vet is a vet. Bull! They even go so far as to say if you served in the military during Iraq you are an Iraqi War Veteran, what do you guys from Iraq say about that?
Member of American Legion

I feel that the National Commander has lied to us and should step down for what he has said. No Vet would look down on a stateside Vet for his service, but do not bullshit us, we do not think highly of one that does. He was wrong, I know he will not face any diaplinary action for it. I can only hope that the Vietnam Vets let him know that we are dissapointed with his acitons.
Don Martindale Post 4 Mt.Clemens MI.
Is a man or woman who served 1941-1945 but never left the States a WWII vet or WWII-era vet?
Is a man or woman who served 1941-1945 but never left the States a WWII vet or WWII-era vet?

Good point. Titles can be very confusing. Like I served in SEA, or Era, or ???, The issue is that they all served.

I think RVN war is a little more fuzzier because of how it was defined. While the conflict was going on, there were other issues for the military. I have a close friend who was in the Army same time as him. He was in Korea. When he states his service he says USA or Korea. From the way I hear in regards to the "titles", saying your a RVN War vet is the same as saying you were in-country. The second article paints a much better picture. The first one seems nit picky.

Edited to add, I think it is the Legion's problem, if there is one, and not mine.
Is a man or woman who served 1941-1945 but never left the States a WWII vet or WWII-era vet?

My opinion regarding this question is that you have to look at the situation and the common usage of the terms as related to veterans. WWII was a world war and all who served no matter where they served were counted as a veteran of that war simply because even serving in the states, which was attacked via Pearl Harbor was in itself considered a part of the war zone in essence. It has been the policy or practice of the general public and the military forces to call a Vietnam or Korean War veteran a veteran only if they served in the zone in which that war was fought. Other veterans were and have been, since the beginning and ending of those wars, been referred to by military and civilian alike as Vietnam or Korean War Era Veterans.

Popular practice, I believe, set to tone for who was called a Vietnam veteran and who was not. Simply, the practice has been and remains even today, that only those who served "In Country" in Vietnam, to include the coastal waters, Vietnam veterans. If a person did not so serve they are considered by popular practice, Vietnam Era Veterans. To call yourself a Vietnam Veteran when you did not serve in Vietnam, as recognized by the popular understanding to that term, is to mislead the public and other veterans, plain and simple. In other words, if you call yourself and Vietnam Vet and did not serve in country Vietnam, in my opinion, you are a wannabe, poser or whatever name fits, including a liar by misrepresentation.

Everyone knows who has any common sense what the 2 terms mean ; Vietnam Vet & Vietnam Era Vet. To go from state side soldier to in country soldier is a flat out lie. First off those of us who were there know what went on and happened and can state facts. Those who were state side have no idea what happened or why.
Yes many state side kept us supplied and such and their help was always greatly appreciated but were not in country. To say you're a Vietnam Vet means just that; You were in country. Anything less is a fraud; poser ; liar or wannabe.

If anyone feels bad because they didn't get to go there can have my time and memories. I'M SURE you'll enjoy your days & nights.

I agree If you did not serve " In Country" or as previously mentioned around the coastal waters, then you are not a Vietnam veteran. To say that you are simply because you were in the military at that time is to make your self a 'WALTER MITTY' style character (sorry that's a term used in the UK) I would have to question the motives of a person like that.
Just to clarify Walter Mitty ( From the book the secret life of walter mitty) Mitty is a meek, mild man with a vivid fantasy life: in a few dozen paragraphs he imagines himself a wartime pilot, an emergency-room surgeon, and a devil-may-care killer. The character's name has come into more general use to refer to an ineffectual dreamer, appearing in several dictionaries. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a Walter Mitty as "an ordinary, often ineffectual person who indulges in fantastic daydreams of personal triumphs".
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Thanks Bomber for clarifying an American literary character for us Yanks, God knows, we don't do it in our schools anymore.

I'm glad I don't belong to the American Legion, I would just have to resign.
Thanks Bomber for clarifying an American literary character for us Yanks, God knows, we don't do it in our schools anymore.
Likewise over here RW, I hear a lot of people use the name 'Walter Mitty' but whom have no idea who he was or why they were using the name'. I have come across plenty of people like this and although the description I gave mentions the persons being "Intellectual" most of them were not.
I have thought long and hard about this since it came up. I wore a green beret, but not in Vietnam, in Vietnam I was a helicopter crewchief. I am careful to make the distinction. My brother and many of my friends were Vietnam Era vets who served in Europe or elsewhere. They would never claim to be Vietnam vets, there is a distinction and it involves honesty and honor

I do not look down on those who were unlucky enough not to have served in the Playground of the Orient, they are honest about their service. Interestingly enough, here I am at Fort Bragg, home to literally hundreds of serving and retired green berets whom I run into literally every day. They do not look down on me because I served stateside, in fact I am welcome at all of their functions and have attended various reunions. But, if I tried to pass myself off as one who served in Vietnam, it would be a different story, I would be considered just another "wannabe."

I cannot respect the man.

Andy, most people know Walter Mitty from a film in 1947 called ‘The secret life of Walter Mitty’ starting Danny Kay. The author James Thurber sold very few books. There is to be a remake of the movie sometime this year with Ben Stiller playing Walter Mitty, so I imagine more people will start using the name again.


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