- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Difficult request

“You can’t raise money if you don’t ask for it. Take a deep breath and ask your guests to make a contribution to the Democratic National Committee.”

Fund-raising tip from the Democratic National Committee, forwarded this week to select Democrats who have agreed to host house parties coinciding with the first presidential debate of 2004, to be televised Sept. 30.

Burkett brood

Don’t confuse B.G. Burkett, renowned Texas military researcher and Vietnam veteran who has made a career out of uncovering phony military service and heroism, with retired Lt. Col. Bill Burkett, the disgruntled former Texas National Guardsman who failed miserably in his quest to prove that President Bush shirked responsibilities as a National Guard fighter pilot.

“I’ve got my sister taking my e-mails [because] they think [he’s] me,” says Mr. Burkett, author of the book “Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History,” referring to Col. Burkett, infamous source of now-discredited memos about Mr. Bush’s military service supplied to CBS News.

In fact, if there are questions about B.G.’s loyalties, the former was co-chairman of the Texas Vietnam Memorial when Mr. Bush served as honorary chairman, a position Col. Burkett never would have accepted.

Furthermore, when the former Mr. Burkett became the object of an award-wining television segment recognizing his military research, it was broadcast by ABC — not CBS.

Finally, rest assured, B.G. Burkett and Bill Burkett aren’t related.

“My dad’s heritage is Polish, and the name used to be spelled B-u-r-c-h-a-t,” says B.G. Burkett in a telephone interview from Texas. “In Polish, it’s pronounced ‘Bur-kett,’ and the spelling got ‘Anglo-nized’” when the family arrived in Canada and later the United States.

Phony medals?

We originally called on esteemed military researcher B.G. Burkett yesterday to help us determine whether a Vietnam veteran who was photographed by this newspaper at a recent anti-John Kerry rally outside the U.S. Capitol is himself “a fraud,” which some make him out to be.

All we needed to do was repeat the name “A.J. Camoesas” (Alfonso Camoesas) of Miami.

“We know he’s bogus as hell, a phony,” replied Mr. Burkett, author of “Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History.”

Our photographer had captured “Sgt. Maj. A.J. Camoesas” on Sept. 12 as he rallied with thousands of Vietnam veterans and others who oppose Sen. John Kerry’s candidacy for president. In the photo, the elderly vet was wearing a Distinguished Service Cross.

But in an earlier photo, posted by military observers on the Internet, Mr. Camoesas is wearing a Navy Cross in its place.

“Looking at it, he left his Navy Cross at home … but this time replaced [it] with a Distinguished Service Cross,” writes one observer.

Fred Borch, who claims to be an Army colonel (you can’t be certain of anything these days, as Dan Rather knows), writes that he has compiled a “complete list” of all Navy Cross recipients.

“Bottom line: Camoesas did not receive the Navy Cross … he never was awarded the Navy Cross,” he states.

Attempts by this columnist to reach Mr. Camoesas yesterday were unsuccessful. A Miami telephone operator said his number was unpublished at the customer’s request.

It would appear that Mr. Camoesas is a veteran of both Korea and Vietnam, that he received one Silver Star for gallantry in Korea in 1951, and might have also received a second Silver Star in Vietnam. As for the Navy Cross?

“For some odd reason, folks who like to falsely claim high decorations seem to have a penchant for claiming they got them while on top-secret missions, while serving in special operations, and that sort of thing, and that the citations are masked,” says Col. Borch. “They apparently don’t know that even awards [of this caliber] … all have unclassified citations.”

In conducting his research for “Stolen Valor,” Mr. Burkett spent more than 10 years examining National Archives records and filed hundreds of requests for military documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Subsequently, he “uncovered a massive distortion of history … toppled national political leaders and put criminals in jail,” according to the book.

And such claims of high military decorations aren’t confined to service in Vietnam.

“Everybody thinks overblown claims [of military service and heroism] arose during the Vietnam War, but in truth it was much more prevalent after World War II,” Mr. Burkett tells Inside the Beltway. “The difference is that nobody ever brought it up then, because they didn’t have the Internet and other ways to check on the validity.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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