Sunday, June 06, 2010

A Marine’s Apology

The letter below, written by Mr. Hine, was sent to several newspapers that declined to print it. George Gombossy, formerly of the Courant, interviewd Mr. Hines on his blog CTWatchdog.

A Marine’s Apology to Vietnam Veterans and their Families

I have known Richard Blumenthal for over twenty years. Dick Blumenthal completed “boot camp” at Marine Corp Recruiting Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina. The training is rigid and puts stress and strain on the recruits mentally and physically. It is no picnic.

When you graduate, you become a member of the world’s most elite fighting force and you have earned the right to call yourself a “Marine.” I was a Judge Advocate at Paris Island alternating from defense counsel to trial counsel and Individual Military Counsel in the late 1970’s. I congratulate Dick Blumenthal for his service, stamina and courage in challenging himself to become a Marine.

When I was called up for Desert Storm from the Reserves, Dick took time to talk to me about the challenges I might be facing. He knew my young daughter Allison from meeting her and talking to her numerous times. He also knew my marriage to Allison’s mother was falling apart. Dick gave me his private phone number to call if I needed help or assistance. He told me to give Allison his private number and to have him call her if she was ever scared or worried about me.

Allison was and is today the “apple of my eye.”

Prior to my leaving for Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where I was a Company Commander and the Officer in Charge of Retrograde, Allison sat with me and both of us were interviewed by Channel 8, Channel 3, the New Haven Register, and the North Haven Post. All the reporters were amazed by her poise, intelligence and composure. She was very scared. The world as she knew it was falling apart and I was going.

Alison never called Dick. His act of kindness and compassion to my daughter and me I will never forget, and I am deeply indebted to him for life. We then talked about my possibly going to Iraq if the war went poorly. We then discussed the separation from family and employment, and we agreed I would be with my fellow Marines and friends. He then said, you’re a Major, and so it will be a little different for you than it was for me as an enlisted Marine in Vietnam. I was appalled and shocked, because I knew he had not been to Vietnam, yet just a moment before he had helped to console my daughter in an unsolicited act of kindness.

I have been torn for twenty years about that conversation and what it tells me about his character.

Periodically, I would hear him repeat the statement that he served in Vietnam. He didn’t “misspeak” or “misstate” to me face-to-face twenty years ago and he hasn’t to veterans and the press in subsequent years – he lied.

As a Major, Judge Advocate USMCR I want to apologize for Sergeant Richard Blumenthal to all the Vietnam era service members, their mothers and fathers and all their loved ones.

The blood of our service members soaked the rice paddies of Vietnam, we lost tens of thousands of our young and tens of thousands of other service members come home injured psychologically and physically.

I apologize to all that are living and offer my prayers to those who have left us.

I was at Officers’ Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia for part of the Vietnam War. I also received an education deferment to finish college and an education deferment to finish law school. During Desert Storm, I never left Camp Lejeune for Iraq. I don’t claim to have been overseas for either war, but if I did I would be dishonoring the integrity that my grandparents, parents and mentors taught me, and that I have zealously protected my whole life.

“Misstatements,” “misspeaking” are what politicians claim when they get caught lying. Dick lied to me at the same time he was compassionate. You decide. It took me twenty years to decide.


Richard R. Hine


Judge Advocate
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