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August 23, 2004

Cleland's Good Attitude towards his Undeserved Medals

National Review has this good comment on how another Vietnam vet talks about medals that he didn't really deserve.

However in his 1986 autobiography, Cleland downplayed his experience. He wrote that he was awarded the Soldier's Medal "for allegedly shielding my men from the grenade blast and the Silver Star for allegedly coming to the aid of wounded troops...." But, he acknowledges, "there were no heroics on which to base the Soldier's Medal. And it had been my men who took care of the wounded during the rocket attack, not me. Some compassionate military men had obviously recommended me for the Silver Star, but I didn't deserve it." He also writes that, "I was not entitled to the Purple Heart either, since I was not wounded by enemy action."

Cleland seems to be handling it just right. It reminds me of the proverb that if your record is a bit shaky it's better for people to ask why you aren't praised more than for them to ask why you are praised so much. An example in economics is James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock. Buchanan won the Nobel Prize in economics, largely for work the two of them did together. Afterwards, some people questioned whether Buchanan deserved the Prize for work of that quality, and others questioned whether Tullock oughtn't to have gotten one too, since his work was as good as Buchanan's.

CORRECTION, AUGUST 27: I now learn from the article of the article which quoted Cleland's book that he did *not* in fact, get a Purple Heart. Rather, he is explaining *why it was a correct decision not to award him one.* The point I was making still holds. (See my Kerry in Vietnam archives for more posts)

Posted by erasmuse at August 23, 2004 10:43 PM

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