Joe Biden last week told a poignant tale of a Navy captain who retrieved the body of a comrade, and humbly refused the Silver Star that Biden pinned on him for his heroism in Afghanistan because the soldier had died.
But based on interviews with more than a dozen U.S. troops, their commanders and Biden campaign officials, it appears the former vice president mixed elements of three real events into one story that never happened, The Washington Post reported.
Instead, the Post reported, Biden visited Kunar province in 2008 as a U.S. senator, not as vice president. The service member who performed the celebrated rescue that Biden described was a 20-year-old Army specialist, not a much older Navy captain. And that soldier, Kyle J. White, never had a Silver Star, or any other medal, pinned on him by Biden.
At a White House ceremony six years after Biden’s visit, White stood at attention as President Barack Obama placed a Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, around his neck.
There is one element that is real, the Post noted: In 2011, the vice president did pin a medal on a heartbroken soldier, Army Staff Sgt. Chad Workman, who did not believe he deserved the award.
“I was making the point how courageous these people are, how incredible they are, this generation of warriors, these fallen angels we’ve lost,” Biden told the Post. “I don’t know what the problem is. What is it that I said wrong?”
According to the Post, Biden’s first retelling of his trip to Kunar province, made shortly after his return in early 2008, was largely true, but not nearly as emotionally fraught as the versions he later told on the campaign trail.
In 2008, then-Sen. Biden, along with Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and John Kerry, D-Mass., flew by helicopter to Forward Operating Base Naray and watched as Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez presented a Bronze Star for valor to Spec. Miles Foltz, who braved heavy Taliban fire to rescue a wounded soldier, the Post reported.
Biden seemed to stop telling the story until the summer of 2016, when he told the story of at a World War II ceremony in Australia. In that version, Foltz, a young soldier, had been replaced by a much older Navy captain who in Biden’s telling “climbed down about 200 feet” into a ravine and retrieved his wounded friend who died. The Bronze Star was upgraded to a Silver Star, the Post reported.
This time, Biden said he was the one who pinned the medal on the officer, not the general.
He also told it at an October 2016 rally for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, shifting the setting from Afghanistan to Iraq. Instead of rappelling down a ravine, an Army captain pulled a dead soldier out of a burning Humvee, the Post reported
Three weeks later, stumping for Jason Kander, an Afghan War veteran running for the Senate in Missouri, Biden told both the Iraq and Afghanistan versions back to back in a single speech, the Post reported.
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