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War Stories and Apologies

Much ridicule has already been heaped upon NBC News’ anchorman Brian Williams for his exaggerated war stories, and even more for the apology he posted on Facebook, so we’re loathe to add any more to the pile of scorn. Better to take the opportunity of all the distracted attention and favorable comparisons to confess our own exaggerations and offer our own apologies.
Not that we begrudge Williams’ many critics their gleeful mockery, and we don’t condone Williams’ false braggadocio or accept his seemingly insincere claims of contrition. Williams’ embarrassment is a boon to the conservative cause,  as it further calls into question the veracity of his entire reliably liberal network and provides yet another rejoinder whenever some liberal sneers about Fox News, and it even forces the press to recall presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s similarly fabulist tale of zig-zagging across the tarmac dodging Bosnian sniper fire, which is always good for a chuckle or two if you try to envision it, so some measure of schadenfreude would be too much for even the most compassionately conservative soul to resist. There’s also something slightly infuriating to a hawk’s sensibilities about an NBC anchor, of all people, trying to glom on to a bit of Iraq War glory, and when you watch the guy’s newly dredged-up appearance on the Late Night With David Letterman program, holding the audience in thrall with the umpteenth telling of a rocket propelled grenade hitting his helicopter and how “we” brought it safely down and won the day, with the supposedly wised-up host falling for it to such an extent he utters “war hero” as he heads into a commercial break, there’s a certain temptation to find out what five-star restaurant the guy will be eating at tonight and show up to punch him in the nose. Still, we humbly decline to heap any further ridicule.
Who among us, after all, has not “misremembered” being shot down in a helicopter by a rocket propelled grenade? We’ve had some bumpy airline landings in our time, and after all the drinks that it takes us to get through an airline flight we could have easily mistaken any of them for a bombing mission on the Memphis Belle. Perhaps our neighborhood is just getting a bit seedy, but it seems that lately one encounters so many rocket propelled grenades in the course of a day’s chores that it’s hard to remember when it did or didn’t happen. We note that all of the NBC crew that always accompanies Williams on his death-defying missions seem to have “misremembered” the events as well, or at least declined to offer any corrections, and the NBC management seems to have had little trust in the memories of the numerous servicemen who have written over the past 13 years of Williams’ re-tellings to offer an alternative version of events, and anyone who’s seen “Rashomon” knows how tricky memories can be.
Despite our own constant endeavor for truth, honesty, and journalistic integrity, even we have been known to exaggerate our wartime exploits. In the interest of full disclosure we will confess that, despite our claims one beery evening at the old Cedar Lounge, we were not the first to land on Omaha Beach. We were in Omaha once, and were the first to arrive at a picnic on a sand dune along the Missouri River, but the part about taking out a Nazi machine gun nest was apparently “misremembered,” as we have since learned that the D-Day invasion took place 15 years prior to our birth. We offer our apologies to Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks and all the other brave men who made that great victory possible. Contrary to what we once told a rather comely young woman at a cocktail party, we were not among the last holdouts of the French Foreign Legion at Dien Ben Phu. That battle apparently also preceded our birth, so we seem to have “conflated” it with a hazing incident at a Boy Scout camp, and in any case it made no impression on the young lady, who had never heard of Dien Ben Phu, so we regret the error. We find ourselves in the humiliating position of apologizing to the French. To retract a story we once told in a job interview, neither did we ever lead an undersea army against SPECTRE’s nuclear-armed scuba mercenaries to save Miami from total destruction, which is apparently the climactic scene of the James Bond thriller “Thunderball,” although we still insist that could have happened. We offer our apologies to Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, Harry Saltzman, and especially to Sean Connery, who actually was James Bond and actually did that.
We’ll let the taunters “tweet” their tsk-tsks, the satirists spew their snark, the pundits propound their disappointment, and the ravenous pack of press folk eat their own, but we’ll take the high ground. That’s a lesson we learned way back when we served with Gen. John Sedgwick, eponym of our very own Sedgwick County, during the Battle of Spotsylvania against those bloodthirsty rebs, but there’s a rip-roaring a story for another time.

— Bud Norman

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