Monday, August 23, 2004

AWOL Guardsmen for the Truth

Editor's note: Someone slipped this under the Orcinus newsroom door the other day, if ya know what I mean. Sounds kinda hinky, but hey. If this kind of fact-gathering is good enough for Matt Drudge, it's good enough for me.

Inspired by the nationally publicized exploits of another group of veterans, another secret, shadowy group is now poised to make its mark on the American election scene. Or so some people say.

Calling themselves "AWOL Guardsmen for the Truth," they are constituted of former National Guardsmen who were punished by the military for being absent without leave from their National Guard units during the early 1970s. And they're speaking out because they wonder why President George W. Bush -- who, they say, was guilty of similar or worse infractions than their own -- didn't receive the same treatment.

The group is planning a series of advertisements in which former AWOL Guardsmen speak out about Bush's military record. The ads feature testimony from other men who served in the Guard in the early 1970s along with Bush.

"I served with George W. Bush," says Joe Schlabotnik, a former Washington Air National Guard member. "Well, sort of, anyway. We were both in Air Guard units at the same time, even though mine was up Spokane. For missing four monthly drills, I was booted out of the Guard, drafted and sent to Vietnam. Why wasn't Bush?"

"I served with George W. Bush," chimes in Herman P. Grunt. "Well, OK, I was just in the Texas National Guard. I had a six-year commitment. But around fall of '71, just as I was about to finish up, I decided I had 'other priorities' and stopped showing up for drills for five months. Next thing I knew, I was ordered into active duty for another 24 months. I wonder why Bush wasn't."

"I don't think George W. Bush is telling the truth about his time in the Texas Air Guard," say Klem Kadiddlehopper, a former California Air Guardsman. "I mean, I took off from the Guard in the spring of '73 to pursue business opportunities and skipped out on my physical, just like Bush. Pretty soon I was ordered back to active duty and got reassigned to a paper job as a reserve officer, but I skipped out on that, too. Then they gave me the option of a dishonorable discharge or a court-martial. I took the dishonorable.

"So how did Bush get an honorable discharge? What kind of strings did he pull?"

The AWOL Guardsmen for the Truth were unable to find any other Guardsmen who remember serving with Bush after May 1972, when he first began missing drills. (This is probably not surprising, since no one ever stepped forward to claim Garry Trudeau's $10,000 reward for anyone who could prove they served with Bush in Alabama.) They were, however, able to locate a Guardsman who remembers Bush from a more relaxed setting -- in Chihuahua, Mexico.

"Hey, man, I can't be sure of anything from those days," says Hedley Stonecipher, a former Texas Guardsman. "But I remember like it was yesterday hanging out with W at a cheap little titty bar in Chihuahua, 'cuz that was where we went to get the cheap hookers. Gee, maybe it was yesterday. Wait, no, it was June 21, 1972. Yep. I remember W cuz he was The Man when it came to making it snow there, if you know what I mean."

White House spokesmen denounced the AWOL Guardsmen for the Truth campaign. Press Secretary Scott McClellan repeatedly referred reporters to Bush's autobiography, A Charge to Keep, in which the president stated: "I continued flying with my unit for the next several years."

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