The American political graveyard has more than a few monuments to politicians and public officials who embellished details of their military service, in some cases laying claim to medals for heroism or other military honors they never received.
And then, uniquely, there is Seth W. Moulton, the Democratic nominee for Congress in the Sixth Congressional District, a former Marine who saw fierce combat for months and months in Iraq. But Moulton chose not to publicly disclose that he was twice decorated for heroism until pressed by the Globe.
In 2003 and 2004, during weeks-long battles with Iraqi insurgents, then-Lieutenant Moulton “fearlessly exposed himself to enemy fire” while leading his platoon during pitched battles for control of Nasiriyah and Najaf south of Baghdad, according to citations for the medals that the Globe requested from the campaign.
The Globe learned of the awards — the Bronze Star medal for valor and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal for valor — after reviewing an official summary of Moulton’s five years of service, in which they were noted in military argot.
In an interview, Moulton said he considers it unseemly to discuss his own awards for valor. “There is a healthy disrespect among veterans who served on the front lines for people who walk around telling war stories,’’ he said. What’s more, Moulton said he is uncomfortable calling attention to his own awards out of respect to “many others who did heroic things and received no awards at all.’’
Moulton, who is facing off against Republican Richard Tisei in the Sixth Congressional District race, has been so close-mouthed about the medals that in his campaign, only his campaign manager – a former Marine – knew of the awards before the Globe asked for the citations on Wednesday. Even his parents did not know, and were told just this week, according to Scott Ferson, a campaign spokesman.
More typically, political candidates are more than happy to call attention to their valorous awards. In other cases, political careers have ended abruptly for candidates caught embellishing or fabricating aspects of their military service.
In Massachusetts, for instance, Republican state Representative Royall H. Switzler’s 1986 campaign for governor collapsed amid disclosures that he was not an Army Special Forces captain in Vietnam, as he had claimed, but an enlisted man who served in Korea. Four years earlier, Republican gubernatorial candidate John R. Lakian lost his party’s primary after the Globe discovered a number of exaggerations on his resume, including a false claim that he won a battlefield promotion in Vietnam.
More recently, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, was elected to the US Senate in 2010, even after The New York Times reported that he had falsely intimated during a speech that he had served as a Marine in Vietnam. In 1982, former US Representative Bruce F. Caputo abandoned his candidacy for the US Senate in New York after his claim to have served as an Army lieutenant during the Vietnam War proved to be false.