Walter Robinson, a reporter for the Boston Globe and a Vietnam War veteran, has made a kind of cottage industry of blowing up politicians’ overblown claims about their military records. And so it was that when he began looking into the military background of Seth Moulton, the Democratic Party’s nominee for the 6th Congresssional District seat in Massachusetts, he might have been expecting to find that Moulton had, shall we say, overstated his military accomplishments.
But if he was, he was way wrong:
The American political graveyard has more than a few monuments to politicians and public officials who embellished details of their military service, in some cases laying claim to medals for heroism or other military honors they never received.
And then, uniquely, there is Seth W. Moulton, the Democratic nominee for Congress in the Sixth Congressional District, a former Marine who saw fierce combat for months and months in Iraq. But Moulton chose not to publicly disclose that he was twice decorated for heroism until pressed by the Globe.
In 2003 and 2004, during weeks-long battles with Iraqi insurgents, then-Lieutenant Moulton “fearlessly exposed himself to enemy fire” while leading his platoon during pitched battles for control of Nasiriyah and Najaf south of Baghdad, according to citations for the medals that the Globe requested from the campaign.
The Globe learned of the awards — the Bronze Star medal for valor and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal for valor — after reviewing an official summary of Moulton’s five years of service, in which they were noted in military argot.
In an interview, Moulton said he considers it unseemly to discuss his own awards for valor. “There is a healthy disrespect among veterans who served on the front lines for people who walk around telling war stories,’’ he said. What’s more, Moulton said he is uncomfortable calling attention to his own awards out of respect to “many others who did heroic things and received no awards at all.’’ …
Even his parents did not know, and were told just this week, according to Scott Ferson, a campaign spokesman. …
Moulton won the Bronze Star medal for valor, the nation’s fourth-highest award for heroism under fire, for his actions over two consecutive days during an August 2004 battle for control of the strategic city of Najaf, one of Islam’s holiest cities. According to the citation and accompanying documentation, his platoon was attacked and pinned down by intense mortar, rocket, sniper, and machine-gun fire. With four of his Marines wounded, Moulton “fearlessly exposed himself to enemy fire,’’ moving among his men while ignoring incoming mortar rounds and sniper fire, and directing supporting fire that repelled the attack. The platoon again came under heavy fire the following day when Marines expelled soldiers from the Mahdi Army from another section of Najaf.
Moulton received the other medal for valor during the battle for Nasiriyah in March, 2003, the first major battle after the US invasion. Moulton’s platoon was credited with clearing a hostile stronghold. Later, Moulton rushed to the aid of a Marine who had been wounded by friendly artillery fire even though there was a chance that additional rounds might land at the same spot.
In the interview, Moulton asked that the Globe not describe him as a hero. “Look,’’ he said, “we served our country, and we served the guys next to us. And it’s not something to brag about.’
The greatest honor, he said, his voice choked with emotion, had nothing to do with the medals. “The greatest honor of my life was to lead these men in my platoon, even though it was a war that I and they disagreed with.”
I have no idea what kind of congresscritter Moulton would make. And in fairness, his openly gay Republican opponent (only in Massachusetts!), Richard Tisei, seems not to be the kind of slash-and-burn Republican who has done so much damage to the nation in the past five years. But Moulton’s heroism combined with his modesty — his servant-leader approach — is certainly something Congress could use more of, military background or not.
(h/t: Charlie Pierce)