OPINION- Is Plymouth Township Supervisor distorting his military service?
October 19, 2012 PLYMOUTH VOICE.
Is Plymouth Township Supervisor distorting his military service?
By: Brian Bentley
“I suggest that when you renew your tabs in December, you request a license plate more accurately reflective of your service to our country.”…Brian Bentley to Richard Reaume.
I walked up to the “big table” at the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees meeting the other night. I did it after the meeting had adjourned. I had a question for Plymouth Township Supervisor, Richard Reaume
I had left a message for him early Friday afternoon, and I wanted to know if he had received it.
I had told his secretary that I was writing a blog, and that I had questions for him. I told her that I wanted to post my blog on Monday, so if he wanted to answer them, he should call me by Monday.
Well Monday came and went, but it then dawned on me that Monday was Columbus Day, and he probably wasn’t at work. He may have been in a classroom somewhere telling children about the adventures of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. Or maybe he was putting up campaign signs. Who knows?
Either way, I knew he was not at work. With this in mind, and being the fair kind of guy that I am, I decided to wait and see if he called me Tuesday. He didn’t. No surprise there.
I am not surprised because I have had a conversation or two with him in the past, and it obviously became clear to him that I do not respond well to “politispeak.” He learned that this is not my first rodeo, and I know when I am getting smoke blown up my butt.
So after Tuesday came and went, I decided to approach him after the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees meeting and ask him if he got my message. Turns out he did. He said, and I quote, “You are being very blunt.” I assume that he meant rude, but who the heck knows.
It was not the answer I expected, so I simply responded by asking him again, if he had received my message. He informed me that he did receive it, and that he didn’t appreciate the way I had left it. Apparently, he was upset that I had told his secretary that I write a blog, and if he wanted to respond to my questions before I posted it he should call me within the next 3 days.
Well now I know. If you do not want to upset King Richard, do not threaten him in that blunt manner.
So from now on, I will make my requests like this: “Madam Secretary, if I could, I would like to humbly ask the Exalted One if he could kindly bestow upon me a minute or two of his very valuable time to answer a question or two? If he would do me that courtesy, I would be forever grateful for his time and benevolence toward me, one of the unwashed masses.” Or something like that.
Anyway, “The Exalted One” decided he was going to lecture me, after all, I was in his kingdom, and how dare I approach his throne with such “bluntness.”
Well, I don’t react well to lectures either, so I figured the hell with it, I’ll just be blunt with my question.
“Mr. Reaume, are you a Vietnam Veteran?” Head down, no answer.
“Where did you serve?” Head down, no answer.
“Did You serve in country?” Head down, no answer.
“I didn’t think so!” Head down.
I then walked away in disgust before I said something that might get me arrested. Remember, I was in King Richard’s Fiefdom, the Plymouth Township Hall.
So why did I ask King Richard about his Vietnam service? I asked him because he drives around town with a Vietnam Veteran license plate on his car. He has a license plate from the State of Michigan on the back of his car that says Vietnam Veteran.
Well I know for a fact that the man has never set one toe on Vietnamese soil. As near as I can tell, the closest he ever got to Vietnam, was Texas, and he has the audacity to display that plate on his vehicle.
I did some homework. I went online to the State of Michigan web site, and found out that if you were in the military between the years 1961-1975 you are indeed eligible to get a Vietnam Veteran license plate from the State of Michigan.
I couldn’t believe it when I read that news.
You can also get an Army Veteran license plate, or any of the other military branches, and this is important.
When given the choice between a Vietnam Veteran license plate, and an Army Veteran license plate, Plymouth Township Supervisor, Richard Reaume chose the Vietnam Veteran license plate, even though he never set foot in the country.
He chose the Vietnam Veteran license plate even though he does not possess a CIB (Combat Infantryman Badge.) Since World War II, the CIB is the “been there, done that” badge that basically signifies you have been in combat in a theater of war.
When I see a car with a WWII or Vietnam Veteran license plate, it makes me feel proud. I can’t tell you how many times I have given a wave, and mouthed the words “thank you” to the drivers of cars with these plates. They all get it, and I get a nod back. We both then drive away with a nice feeling. It’s a great thing!
I have seen a few Vietnam Veteran license plates in parking lots, and a couple of times I have had the honor, and pleasure, because of timing, to shake a hand, and thank a couple of our heroes in person. Actually, once I even asked a wife to thank her husband who was at home. She smiled and told me that her husband would be happy to hear it!
You see, I never fail to offer a heartfelt thank you to a veteran when I know that I am in the presence of one. It is something every American should do. To me, it is the very least we can do for our Veterans. There are many ways to thank our Veterans, and I choose the all of the above approach.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not here to belittle anybody. If you have served in our military, you have my respect. It does not matter whether you fought in a war or not. You signed on the dotted line knowing that if the order came, you were gonna take up arms, and defend our nation.
There is honor in serving in the military. It does not matter whether you took up arms in conflict or not. There is honor knowing that you stood ready to do so.
There is no honor in distorting your military service. In my opinion, Richard Reaume has distorted his military service.
When you see a car with a Vietnam Veteran license plate, do you automatically think the person fought in the Vietnam War? I do, or at least I did until Richard Reaume wrecked that illusion for me.
I can honestly say that I have read countless books about the Vietnam War, I have known two “actual” Vietnam Veterans in my life, and one of them I still talk to as much as I can. I am fairly well informed on the war, but I never knew that you could get a Vietnam Veteran license plate even though you never served in country.
I called up the VFW post in Plymouth to ask about this. I figured I could get a better answer from the Vets than from some bureaucrat at the Secretary of State. I was right.
This is what I was told by a Veteran named Bill: Some time ago, a man had a Vietnam Veteran license plate, and he wrongly had it. He had never served in Vietnam. There was a big issue over it, and eventually, Congress, in it’s infinite wisdom, decided to take the path of least resistance, and create a law that said if you were a Vietnam ERA military veteran, you were now eligible to have a Vietnam Veteran license plate.
That made it much simpler. There was far less burden of proof. I actually checked this out with the Secretary of state and you do not even need a military card with the dates of service. Path of least resistance. All you have to do is sign a statement that you were in the military between 1961 and 1975 and you get your Vietnam Veteran license plate. Of course by signing, you are declaring you are telling the truth, and will be charged with a misdemeanor if found to be lying.
Well I asked Bill what he thought of a man like Richard Reaume having a Vietnam Veteran license plate even though he never set foot on Vietnamese soil, and he said that it shows disrespect for every man and woman who actually served in Vietnam.
I asked my friend Jeff, who served in the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, and he was flat out mad. He was mad that a man would purposely distort his military service. He used a couple words that I can not mention here, and he wanted Mr. Reaume’s phone number.
I will be giving him all three of the numbers that I have for Mr. Reaume. I think it is important that Richard Reaume hear from those that have been there, and done that. I think it is only fair that the “Real Veterans” get a chance to tell Mr. Reaume a little bit about service, honor and integrity.
I wonder if anyone has ever approached Mr. Reaume in a parking lot and thanked him for his service to our great nation? I wonder if he told them he was a Vietnam ERA Veteran, or just accepted the handshake that usually goes along with the thank you. Who knows?
I wouldn’t surprise me though if, when he was driving down the road, some Dad pointed out his car and told his kid, “That man is a hero to our country. He fought in the jungles of Vietnam, and when he came home, there were no parades for him. He did his duty, but was ridiculed when he came home. It took many years for our Vietnam Veterans to finally get the respect they deserved from a great many Americans.” I have had that conversation with all three of my boys, so I know it happens.
I had a conversation with Mr. Reaume yesterday. He wasn’t very happy that I had managed to get through his phone screening process again. I pushed him on my question. “Did you ever set foot on Vietnam soil?”
He implied that I was stupid for asking that question because if I had bothered to look it up, I would find out that the license plates are for Vietnam ERA Veterans as well as Vietnam Veterans. he didn’t want to talk about the difference between the two.
Contrary to what you implied, I’m not stupid Mr. Reaume. I simply wanted to hear it out of your own mouth. I wanted you to personally tell me that no, you didn’t serve in Vietnam, as your license plate seems to portray.
You are not stupid either Mr. Reaume. You knew you could get a license plate that accurately portrayed your military service. You also knew that you could get a plate that distorted your service to our country. You chose to distort. You knew the difference between the two choices. Accuracy VS Distortion Mr. Reaume chose distortion.
I was told by a Veteran that there is a code of honor as far as these license plates go. An unwritten rule. If you did not serve in the theater, you do not get the plate. In the minds of Veterans it is very simple, and it is a rule you don’t break.
I was also told that I shouldn’t really be too concerned about it, because there are very few violators of this unwritten code. I was told that Mr. Reaume is in the vast minority.
Mr. Reaume, there are over 58,000 names on a wall in Washington, DC. There are currently over 1600 American soldiers still unaccounted for. Over 3 million military personnel served in the Southeast Asia Theater, and of those, well over one million were in harms way on a regular basis.
Mr. Reaume, you have dishonored these brave men and women with your willful distortions. As a proud American, I am disgusted that you would do such a thing. I have seen Mr. Reaume do some underhanded things in the past, but this goes beyond the pale, and there are a hell of a lot of Veterans that agree.
Mr. Reaume, I suggest that when you renew your tabs in December, you request a license plate more accurately reflective of your service to our country.
It is the decent and honorable thing to do…
Editor: Mr. Bentley is a Plymouth Township resident, contributor and published advocate for change.