A lot of Calaveras County citizens are military veterans, morethan in many other California counties in proportion to the rest oftheir populations. Recent news concerning service members andveterans has been pretty rough. As a vet, I was saddened, as wereother Calaveras vets I’m sure. In December, the Sac-ramento Bee and other Mc-Clatchy papersheadlined a big front-page story, “Tale of Marine’s heroic acts indoubt,” followed by a reporter’s overheated rhetoric calling intoquestion the award of the Con-gressional Medal of Honor to MarineSgt. Dakota Meyer. Then a tragic suicide on Christmas Eve made somenews wires, that of 101st Airborne Division vet Mike Kelley, whowas for decades a leading public voice in northern California forveterans. And just a few days ago, a video went viral on theInternet showing young Marines purportedly “defiling” dead Talibanterrorists. Newspapers and TV news across the country picked up thestory. Naturally, some politicians jumped on it, mostly to scorepoints. These days, when fewer than 1 percent of living adult Americanshave any connection to the military – whether on active duty, inthe reserves or National Guard, or as vets – what are most peopleto think about these things?First, let’s look at the issue surrounding Marine Sgt. Meyer’sMedal of Honor. Just one day after its front-page story, theMcClatchy papers pulled the legs out from under it in a shortfollow-up article on Page 9. Clearly, McClatchy was dropping thestory, despite holding weakly to its claim that there was a”dispute.” The only dispute, however, was in the minds atMcClatchy.The amount of material in any Medal of Honor dossier is vast.The work of several investigators can fill some 20 large fileboxes. Such a dossier is replete with contradictory swornstatements by dozens of witnesses. No one who’s ever been in combatfinds such inconsistencies at all surprising. In civilian life, nopoliceman is surprised when just two or three people who saw thesame auto collision don’t agree on crucial details. In battle, the”fog of war” takes over, as bullets fly (getting shot at is amind-altering experience for anyone) and soldiers scramble to getdown, protect their fellow squad members, and try to figure outwhere the bullets are coming from. It’s next to impossible thateveryone, later on, would agree on what exactly happened if thebattle lasts longer than five minutes.Sgt. Meyer deserved his recognition and his Medal of Honor;that’s not in doubt. That the Bee newspapers often do excellentinvestigative reporting is true. But that McClatchy (with aPulitzer Prize in mind, perhaps?) needlessly dragged the sergeant’sgood name and reputation through the mud of a reporter’s naiveté,that’s also true.The case of the Army’s 101st Airborne vet Mike Kelley, whocommitted suicide on Christmas Eve, is a tragedy and supremely so.His suicide came four decades after his Vietnam tour. Everyonearound him saw the permanent effects Vietnam left on hispersonality. The effects of Mike’s endured pain had two sides, goodand bad. Among the good was his sometimes one-person but wellorganized “war” against indifferent and self-serving Sacramentopoliticians in the 1980s to get the California Vietnam VeteransMemorial built in our state’s Capitol Park.More than easy recognition, military vets need – no, require -every citizen’s deep, long-lasting understanding. Despite politicalviewpoints, every vet was doing the nation’s bidding, under law.Politicians decide what wars are worth it. It’s all too evidentthat comfortable politicians don’t put their own lives at risk.As to young Marines “defiling” Taliban corpses, I find thereactions of most press and politicians to be hypocritical in theextreme. To quote a Marine vet, “We Marines realize the nature ofwarfare. Participants, especially combat troops, are pushed to thelimits of sanity. Many are able to cope with the trauma of combat,but a percentage will live with the memories for the rest of theirlives. I don’t excuse those Marines for what they did, but who isreally to blame? I say it is the fault of every citizen.” Amen,brother.A letter to the editor in the Jan. 13 Sacramento Bee put it thisway:”What about our kids who’ve seen, firsthand, the Talibansacrificing mothers and young children as human shields against thecraven cowardice and blatant evil of these terrorists? One newsoutlet had the effrontery to call the dead Taliban ‘martyrs.’ Ifind that term disgusting for such murderers. I’ll not blame theyoung Marines for their disdain of such people. I blame thepoliticians who engage the U.S. in wars that do little to ensureAmerica’s security.”Bill Withuhn of Burson, a former businessman, is a curatoremeritus of the Smithson-ian and a veteran of Special Operations.Contact him at . Old Sky Warrior © 2012 Calaveras Enterprise. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.