- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Steve Gardner spoke his conscience when it mattered, but now he’s down and out. If you don’t remember him, Mr. Gardner was the swift boat veteran who said John Kerry trumped up his wartime heroics and fabricated his “Christmas in Cambodia” story. He was the only person to both serve on Mr. Kerry’s boat and criticize Mr. Kerry during his campaign, and was also the longest-serving enlisted man under Mr. Kerry’s command. Now we hear that he is broke. As he told the Chicago Sun-Times recently, he is “doing little bits here and there to pay the bills.”

How did he get that way? In March, Mr. Gardner was fired from his job with an insurance outsourcing company the day after an unflattering article about him appeared in Time magazine. The company, Millennium Information Services Inc. of Itasca, Ill., has denied any wrongdoing, saying Mr. Gardner’s firing and the elimination of his job had been planned weeks earlier. Millennium insists the timing was coincidence. But Mr. Gardner says the employee who sent the e-mail firing him had just lauded his performance a week earlier, and that he has seen the company advertising to fill his former job. He hasn’t recouped any money from his contribution to the best-seller “Unfit for Command” either, since its proceeds went to families of veterans, POWs and MIAs.

We have “whistleblower” laws in the United States to protect truth-tellers in government and business, but we have none for political debate. It’s clear Mr. Gardner was a political whisteblower in the debates leading up to election 2004. Mr. Gardner knew a side of Mr. Kerry’s service less flattering than what the senator’s repeated allusions to his service record or his “reporting for duty” salute at the Democratic National Convention would suggest. So he poked holes in Mr. Kerry’s more dubious war stories.

In one of these, Mr. Gardner challenged Mr. Kerry’s claim that he spent Christmas 1968 in Cambodia. “Never in the months of December and January was John Kerry ever near Cambodia,” Mr. Gardner insisted.

What did Mr. Gardner get for speaking out? Contempt from the media generally. Quite possibly he lost his job over it. He says he hadn’t spoken about his Vietnam service for 35 years, but felt compelled to warn the American people about Mr. Kerry’s record.

We hope a patriotic employer lends Mr. Gardner a helping hand. (You can help via www.paypal.com by sending a donation to [email protected]) Mr. Gardner did right by his country. Now his country needs to do right by him.

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