Early in the failed reporting of the confrontation between the Covington Catholic school kids and Native American Nathan Phillips, the Indian man told the media he was a “Vietnam veteran.” Now we have learned that he lied.
A large number of media outlets reported that Phillips was a “Vietnam veteran” and he was characterized as a combat veteran during the Vietnam War. But now we have found out that Phillips never served in Vietnam, nor did he ever serve in any combat role.
Indeed, his age makes service in Vietnam somewhat problematic. Phillips is 64 and was born in 1954. But that would have made him 18 in 1972. But the U.S. was already pulling out of Vietnam the very next year, in 1973.
So, while it is on the outside possible that he could have been in country during the war, if only for a very short time, it is highly unlikely.
Now we have found out that Phillips went into the service in 1972 and was not ready for any sort of deployment until the year we had already started pulling out of the war.
So, while Phillips is, indeed, a military veteran from the era of last year of the war, he is not really a “Vietnam veteran.” He is more properly a veteran of the Vietnam era — and only barely at that.
Several media outlets have retroactively “corrected” their stories about Phillips’ service.
For instance, The Washington Post added an update reading: “Correction: Earlier versions of this story incorrectly said that Native American activist Nathan Phillips fought in the Vietnam War. Phillips said he served in the U.S. Marines but was never deployed to Vietnam.”
The New York Times also added an addendum to its story:
An earlier version of this article, using information from the Indigenous Peoples Movement, gave an incorrect description of Mr. Phillips’s military service. While Mr. Phillips said he served in the military during the Vietnam era, he told The Times after publication that he was not deployed in Vietnam. The Times has requested his service record from the Pentagon.
So, that is one more lie from the “Native American” who was “accosted” by these evil, racist, white kids… who have turned out not to be… evil… or racist.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.