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.

SEMPER FIDELIS

Richard R. Hine

Major USMCR

Judge Advocate

9 comments:

Ralph Sherman said...

Don, this is amazing but not surprising. Thanks for publishing it, at least on your blog. Which newspapers declined?

Don Pesci said...

Ralph,

Three out of state and three in state. We'll hold up on that for awhile. I sent it out to a few resources. I have hopes that Connecticut's press is not yet brain dead. We'll see.

attilashrugs said...

Thanks. I'm a red dot in Simsbury. But there are others.
Love the Sam Adams quote. Gonna post it.

Anonymous said...

It should be mentioned that Mr. Hines is an assistant attorney general. This is not some random guy throwing out accusations.

Absolutely pathetic that local media in CT wouldn't print his letter.

Fuzzy Dunlop said...

There's a few things about this letter that just don't pass the sniff test, and I have a sneaking suspicion that there's more to this letter than meets the eye.

Here's what immediately catches my eye...
1) It's a little interesting that Hines has "Chris Shays Syndrome." That is, he apparently "periodically" heard Dick lie about his record, knew Dick was lying, and said nothing.

Since Hines had the balls to write this letter, it seems a bit suspect that he didn't even confront Dick personally.

2) CT Watchdog reports: "When Blumenthal ran for attorney general the first time 20 years ago, Hine said he researched him and knew then that Blumenthal never left the states." How did he research this? Did he contact the Department of Defense? There was no internet during Desert Storm, at least not as we know it today. In other words, no Google News Search or Lexis Nexis. If you wanted to research news articles, you had to trudge down to the library and hit the old microfiche.

3) Try and recall a conversation you had with someone twenty years ago, verbatim. It's difficult if not impossible. Particularly when, as seems to be the case with Mr. Hines, you had a lot of other crap on your plate at the time.

Don Pesci said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Don Pesci said...

Fuzzy,

There are only two possibilities: Hine made up his story; the story is true.

If he did make up the story, I suppose Mr. Blumenthal would be anxious to deny it and say so. He has not done this yet, and in the absence of a timely claim by Mr. Blumenthal that Mr. Hine is spinning a fantasy, there is no need to question the veracity of his statement. A timely denial would be a few days, certainly not years.

“It's a little interesting that Hines has ‘Chris Shays Syndrome.’” A nice rhetorical flourish in court, but we are not in court. Considering Blumenthal’ record thus far – a claim that he “misspoke” in the face of several instances in which, according to an unimpeachable media record, he falsely said that the served in Vietnam – why should we not believe Shays rather than Blumenthal?

“Since Hine had the balls to write this letter…” He clearly felt himself under an obligation, because of a kindness Blumenthal had done at a time of emotional stress – Does this ring a bell? – and withheld his charge for many years, according to his own letter. But when the story broke, and Mr. Blumenthal persisted in his denials … well, there are tolerance limits for Marines you know.

One is not likely to forget such assertion as were made by Mr. Blumenthal to Mr. Hine – under such circumstances as Mr. Hine details in his letter. It’s a little like forgetting which roof you fell off of after you had taken a trip to the hospital. In times of emotional crisis such as is described by Mr. Hine in his letter, such a detail as a false claim of service in Vietnam is impressed deeply in cranial matter.

In any case, the claim is there. Mr. Hine will have to defend himself against a clear and unambiguous charge made by Mr. Blumenthal that he is lying – if that ever happens.

I may also say that I interviewed Mr. Hine on the morning of June 7, before Mr. Gombossy's blog appeared. The claims he made in his letter seemed plausible to me, which is why I printed the letter. I knew Mr. Hine about a dozen years ago. Our paths had not crossed again until I received his letter the day before out interview. My latest impression of him is that he was the same honest, forthright and courageous Marine I knew a dozen years ago. He was not wearing a tin foiled hat at our most recent meeting. I think he showed great courage in coming forward.

Don Pesci said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Don Pesci said...

In a follow-up story, Brian Lockhart of the Heart newspaper chain gave Blumenthal the opportunity to deny Mr. Hine’s assertions. This is Blumenthal’s entire response:
“The Blumenthal campaign sent me the following response to Hine’s letter:
“’Dick has been asked and has answered questions about his military service thoroughly and extensively. Now his focus is to move on to the real problems and issues that concern the people of Connecticut. Dick recalls seeking to help and support Mr. Hine but that is his only memory of a conversation that occurred many, many years ago.’”

He doesn't recall the conversation.