WASHINGTON -- The man who inspired Sen. Scott Brown to write a bill making it illegal to falsely claim military honors said he thinks the Massachusetts Republican is stretching the truth when he claims to have "served in Afghanistan."
Brown made the Afghanistan declaration in his recent debate with his Democratic opponent for the Senate seat, Elizabeth Warren.
But Brown's service in Afghanistan was not combat. It was part of his annual two-week stint with the National Guard, in which he requested, in a highly unusual move, to serve in Afghanistan.
"It sounds to me like we just got another Blumenthal Connecticut, Mark Kirk type things there," said Vietnam veteran Doug Sterner, referring to exaggerated military claims two years ago by now-Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)
"I thought it was seriously misleading," said Sterner, whose website outing heroes was the basis for Brown's "Stolen Valor" bill. Sterner's criticism echoes a Boston Globe editorial published Thursday morning.
"I think it does go to an issue of personal character and that concerns me," added Sterner, who earlier this year broke with Brown and has endorsed Warren.
Sterner said it wasn't that Brown's service was with the National Guard that's the problem. Scores of Guard members have been recipients of the Medal of Honor, he noted. Brown's mistake, he said, was implying that his service in Afghanistan was a real tour of duty.
"I would be the last person to denigrate anybody's National Guard service, but I thought the claim, putting himself on par with men and women who have done combat tours, often in excess of a year, 14 months, was a pretty cheesy thing to do," Sterner said.
He allowed that Brown can legitimately claim spending time in Afghanistan. But he said he also thought it broke the spirit of what Brown tried to with the Stolen Valor Act, which Brown himself said was aimed at stopping people from benefiting by swiping the real glory from others.
“It is wrong and cowardly for people to make fraudulent statements in order to receive distinctions that they have not earned," Brown said in July. "We need to ensure that no one can benefit from making false claims and steal the true valor of the courageous servicemen and women who selflessly defend our freedom.”
Brown's campaign responded by referring to the afterward in Brown's book, Against All Odds, in which he wrote that he has taken the concerns of the soldiers he met in Afghanistan back to Washington. The National Guard trip was his second, he wrote; the first was a congressional visit.
When I returned, it was not as a U.S. Senator but as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army National Guard, sent to complete my annual training at a military base near Kandahar. I dressed in fatigues and battle armor, carried a side arm in my holster, and lived, worked, ate, and slept alongside fellow U.S. soldiers and Guard members.
WATCH Brown criticize phony heroes: