Sunday, October 16, 2011

Around Town: Honorably for another year - LA Canada

Around Town: Honorably for another year - LA Canada

At sundown, on Friday, Oct. 7, observant Jews will flock to their temples and synagogues to hear the sorrowful chant of the “Kol Nidre.” The services will invoke the traditions of the ancient rabbinical courts. The Kol Nidre begins with a legal formulation, in Aramaic, which serves as the “All rise, the court is now in session....”

“In the tribunal of Heaven and the tribunal of earth, by the permission of God — praised be God — and by the permission of this holy congregation, we hold it lawful to pray with transgressors.”

What follows is a period of fasting and self-reflection within the communal setting of the congregation.

In that spirit, I finally got up the courage to read Jon Krakauer’s book on the death of Pat Tillman (“Where Men Win Glory”), which describes his death by friendly fire, followed by a massive coverup, Congressional hearings and a tie-in to the case of Jessica Lynch, the Army PFC who was injured, then captured by Iraqi forces and finally rescued in a Special Forces operation. In an effort to enhance public relations and to possibly silence the Tillman family, Pat Tillman was posthumously awarded the Silver Star based on false information.

Lynch was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery even though she never once discharged her weapon. The basis of the award was fake. Both Tillman and Lynch were transformed into poster children for the war. Lynch has openly spoken about the facts. The Tillman family has taken the issue as far as they can.

It’s a tough book to read.

Shortly after finishing “Where Men Win Glory,” I learned of the recent recommendation of an Army captain for the Medal of Honor. The recommendation was made not by the Army, but by a Marine general.

Capt. Will Swenson was in the same battle as Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer. Meyer received the Medal of Honor last month for bravery during a Sept. 8, 2009 battle in the Afghanistan village of Ganjgal. Capt. Swenson was equally brave, equally heroic in the same battle. The Marine Corps put Dakota Meyer up for the nomination. The Army did not recommend Will Swenson. Some feel that Swenson was overlooked by the Army due to his criticism of the Army’s failure to provide air support during the battle.

And now Swenson has been recommended for the Medal of Honor by Marine Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan. “It was the right thing to do despite a lapse of two years,” said Gen. Allen.

My Yom Kippur thoughts are these: What sort of senior leadership covers up the Tillman death with an undeserved Silver Star, cynically awards Lynch an undeserved Bronze Star while promoting falsehoods, and then fails to recommend Capt. Will Swenson for a much-deserved award? Maybe they are too old to remember what it is like to be young, brave and in battle. Maybe they missed Vietnam. Maybe they have always been in rear-area assignments. Maybe they felt the need to cover up to protect themselves and their careers.

More importantly, since these are Yom Kippur thoughts, how do we address these wrongs?

We can join Dakota Meyer in his challenge to raise $1 million for Marine veteran’s scholarships. We can tell our leaders that they need to do better. We can thank the Tillman family for their pursuit of justice.

And we can act honorably. For another year.

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La CaƱada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at

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