I join with this community, as we come together, today, to honor brave warriors who served and sacrificed for the promise of America. Yet at the same time, as a Viet Nam veteran I endure rage and betrayal. In my last blog I referred to the “absolute corruption” of our government. Here is yet another example.
On Memorial Day, 1998, Robert Garwood stood before 200,000 veterans at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. As the crowd cheered “We Love You, Bobby” he was unable to speak. Three men came forward, embraced Bobby, and with their support he regained his voice. Each of the three wore the Medal of Honor and in the silence that preceded Bobby’s words a clear voice rang from the crowd, “such men do not embrace traitors.”
Robert Garwood’s odyssey is one of the darkest in American history. In 1979, after fourteen years of brutal imprisonment in Vietnam, he rescued himself and insisted more POWs had been left behind. This created a major dilemma for our government as it had vowed years before that “there are no American POWs left behind and concealed in Vietnam” overruling families, veterans, former POWs and intelligence officials…all who steadfastly claimed evidence to the contrary.
In fact, American soldiers had been left behind. Held as hostages to ensure that the U.S. fulfill a covert pledge to pay $4.5 billion in reparations to North Vietnam. A letter dated 1 Feb.1973, released in 1977, from Nixon to the Prime Minister of North Viet Nam verifies the deal. However, Nixon, unable to obtain the funding he had secretly promised, defaulted on his commitment and abandoned the POWs. By the time Bobby surfaced they had become ghosts and neither side could admit the truth. Therefore, our government crucified Robert Garwood in order to ensure his story would not be credible.
Instead of honored by a grateful nation, Garwood was accused of desertion, indicted for leading troops into combat against American soldiers. During the longest court martial in U.S. history our government produced negligible evidence to substantiate their accusation. Then, forced to admit that Garwood had been a prisoner, not a traitor, they accused him of collaborating with the enemy in ways much more abhorrent than his peers.
Garwood was found guilty of one count of assault on another POW, one count of aiding the enemy by acting as translator, one count of wearing black pajamas and one count of carrying an AK-47 (unloaded) during a patrol. According to the Chief of the Pentagon’s POW unit in 1973, every man who testified against Garwood felt guilty for behaving exactly as he did and in some cases worse. The jury was never informed.
Guilty of assault? Returning from a work detail Garwood discovered his best friend, Russ Grisset, had been beaten to death for stealing and eating the camp commander’s cat. Several other prisoners had joined in the feast. Yet they had allowed Grisset to stand alone, instead of taking punishment as a group. Upon learning the fate of his best friend… Bobby lashed out and struck a single blow.
Taking no chances, our elected officials also conspired to persuade America that Bobby was a pedophile. During his trial tabloids, east to west, proclaimed “Robert Garwood Accused of Child Molestation.” After his court martial and after being dishonorably discharged, Bobby Garwood again stood trail. Uncontested evidence placed him hundreds of miles from the scene of the alleged crime. All charges were dropped, however, the damage done, no headlines proclaimed his innocence.
For over three decades Robert Garwood has struggled to regain his honor, to force our government to admit the truth, to resurrect lost heroes. He is supported by men with impeccable credentials. General Eugene Tighe, former head of the DIA, Red McDaniel, Captain of the aircraft carrier Lexington and former POW, thousands of Vietnam veterans and three heroes wearing the Medal of Honor all supported Bobby.
Three culprits bear the blame for this malicious betrayal. First, our government who deserted those who served, then attempted to concealed their heinous action by crucifying an innocent soldier. Secondly, our supposedly free press who failed to report the truth and, finally, ultimately, each of us who apathetically believe the propaganda our government wants us to believe…. as we slide down the slippery slope.