While many mainstream news outlets have been pathologically fixed on researching everything having to do with Covington Catholic High School and The Covington Kids, precious few (I’d wager none) have devoted any resources to researching anything regarding Nathan Phillips’ military service or anything else about him. On Monday Streiff reported that it was mathematically impossible that Phillips served in the Vietnam war, but Phillips’ DD-214 wasn’t publicly available.
Late Tuesday, that changed. Retired Navy SEAL Don Shipley shared Nathan Phillips’ (a/k/a Nathan Stanard) DD-214, which he’d acquired through a FOIA request. Shipley discusses its contents in this video:
He enlisted under Nathaniel Richard Stanard, an “adopted” name, according to the DD-214, but his birth name was Nathaniel Phillips. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves, serving from 1972 to 1976. He never left the United States during his service in Lincoln, NE, and El Toro, CA, and was discharged as a private.
Now, I’m not the military expert that Streiff is, but during my years living near Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune I came in contact with quite a few soldiers and Marines. My understanding is that it takes a special talent – of the “I don’t really want to do any work” type – to not promote beyond private in four years. (I’m sure I will be corrected in the comments if my take is incorrect.)
Also, his duty status lists “discharged,” not “honorably discharged.” That could have to do with his multiple stints in confinement after being AWOL.
When he wasn’t AWOL, what did he do? According to Phillips:
“I’m what they call a ‘recon ranger.’ That was my role.”
Wrong. His role was as a refrigerator mechanic, or ReferMech.
Shipley notes that Phillips usually says he is a veteran of the “Vietnam times” or “Vietnam days” and hasn’t himself claimed that he served in Vietnam. According to this 2008 “Indian Country Today” article covering a sacred pipe ceremony Phillips held annually at Arlington National Ceremony, Phillips made a more direct claim about serving in Vietnam:
“Phillips also described coming back to the U.S. as a veteran of the Vietnam era. ‘People called me a baby killer and a hippie girl spit on me.'”
Returning to the United States from where? Was he overseas before enlisting? Or is he talking about coming back to El Toro from a trip to Baja California and using vague language to insinuate, but not blatantly claim, that he served in Vietnam?
It’s not often that I’m left speechless. I don’t know whether to laugh at the revelation that Mr. Recon Ranger is actually Mr. Freon Ranger (h/t @onefinejay, who h/t’s others on Twitter), or be extremely pissed that this man is stealing the valor of men who actually were recon rangers or served in Vietnam and who have lived with the nightmares and anguish their service left them with for decades.
EDITED 10:03 PM PST, 1/22/2019:
It appears that the Indian Country Today article has been edited recently. An archived version of the article from January 20, 2019, says that Phillips specifically claimed he was “a veteran from Vietnam.”
Mighty odd that this more than 10-year-old article was updated between January 20, 2019 and January 22, 2019, eh? (Thank you to “Archer Bowman” from Twitter for the tip. I shouldn’t have been so lazy as to not search for an archived version of the article.)