Retired General Walter Stewart has sent me the following letter about Tammi Hetherington's letter regarding Hillary Clinton's Bosnian visit. I published Tammi's letter Wednesday and it has received national attention. In that article I quoted General Stewart to provide context and background on the issue of valor theft. I added his letter to that article as an update but have been asked to publish it on its own for those who might miss it there.
Dear Mr. Morgan,
Thank you for providing a forum that is generating such meaningful discussion on the topic of Senator Clinton’s “valor theft.” I am particularly impressed with the letter sent to you by Bosnia veteran, Tammi K. Hetherington, a former specialist with the 22nd Signal Brigade, 1st Armored Division, United States Army. I commend Tammi for her service to the nation – service that continues in her courageous willingness to speak truth to power. I commanded thousands of fine soldiers during my almost four decades of active and reserve service, and I would have been honored to have had Tammi among them.
Before I go on, I want to correct misreporting about my service as a Guardsman and as an Army major general in Europe. I was never “leader” or “commander” of the Pennsylvania National Guard because that authority belongs to the Adjutant General. I did hold the same military rank as an adjutant general – major general – but did so as commander, 28th Infantry Division, and as the deputy commander of the State Area Readiness Command (figure that one out). In Europe, my service was at Headquarters, United States European Command (HQUSEUCOM), not at the Army command (USAREUR). EUCOM is the superior headquarters and USAREUR reported to us.
I know this minutia seems irrelevant, but in the military accurate representation of titles and performance are at the core of ethics. This is why fabrication of service or battle credentials – what we call “valor theft” - is so offensive to service members and veterans (or should be). Be you soldier or civilian, if you didn’t “earn it” in service to your country, for shame that you might be wearing it or talking about it - and it is equally shameful for those who have served with honor to defend the dishonor of others. Valor theft degrades every service member and veteran, and, as a point of honor, I call on the former admirals, generals, and service veterans who are publicly in support of Senator Clinton to renounce that support. Continue it, and her dishonor is your dishonor.
I proudly acknowledge that I changed voter registration so I could vote for Senator Obama in Pennsylvania’s presidential primary. With 4000 dead in the supra-strategic national tragedy that is Iraq I could not but do otherwise. As a leader of soldiers I had one rule for advocating others to higher rank: would I want that person commanding my children in combat. For me, Senator Obama - a rational thinker not dumbed-down by “years in Washington” - is the person for elevation to commander-in-chief. And as to Senator Clinton, were she a sergeant seeking promotion, her known fabrication of battle facts would disqualify her. I have been under fire many times, so much so that the incidents run together, but you can bet I remember the first time.
And let me put to rest the security situation at the Tuzla Airport during the March 1996 FLOTUS (first lady of the United States) visit. In the video clip, as she bends to caress the small girl, movement among those behind her reveals a stocky officer wearing four stars on a fatigue cap. I am certain that officer is Admiral “Snuffy” Smith, the senior commander of forces in the Bosnia operation. But Admiral Smith or no, top ranking officers in a war zone don’t wear soft caps unless the security situation warrants it.
Senator Clinton’s recollection of being under fire at Tuzla is an unarguable fabrication – a reprehensible act of valor theft, no ifs, ands, or buts.
Major General (Retired) Walter L. Stewart, Jr.
Former commander, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania Army National Guard
Former Director for Reserve Affairs (ECRA), HQUSEUCOM, Stuttgart, Germany
Ps. Tammi, this one is for you, and for all those who served with you.