American Legion History Project
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Legion Shame
American Legion Nat'l Commander LIES re military record
Thu Aug 10, 2017 19:24

"For the national commander of the American Legion Paul Morin, who never even served in the Vietnam theater, to call himself a Vietnam veteran is a lie," Max Cleland said. (Former VA chief and US Senator)
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 Vietnan 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.

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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 said.

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 shlt 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 Vietnam."

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.
(He has since been fired after charged with having workers pull out asbestos from the building and not protecting them from the deadly mineral)
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.

And when We came Home the American Legion said we had not been in a war and shunned real Vietnam War veterans.

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