Nathan Phillips not Vietnam vet, discharge papers show

By Art Moore


The Native American activist whose confrontation with Kentucky Catholic high schoolers at the Lincoln Memorial last Friday turned into a media firestorm is not a Vietnam veteran as widely reported, according to his official Department of Defense release form.

Covington, Kentucky, High School Student Nick Sandmann and Native American activist Nathan Phillips on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington Jan. 18, 2019 Screenshot YouTube)
Covington, Kentucky, High School Student Nick Sandmann and Native American activist Nathan Phillips on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington Jan. 18, 2019 Screenshot YouTube)

Nathan Phillips’ DD-214, obtained via FOIA by retired Navy SEAL Don Shipley, also conflicts with Phillips’ claim that he was a “recon ranger” in the Marines, reported the blog Red State.

Meanwhile, the Catholic News Agency reported Phillips and a group of about 20 demonstrators on Saturday evening tried to force their way into the National Shrine Basilica in Washington, D.C. to shut down the Vigil Mass while “playing drums and chanting.”

The DD-214 indicates Phillips was stationed stateside in the Marine Corps Reserves as a refrigeration mechanic and was cited for being AWOL three times. After four years of service, he was discharged as a private.

In recent interviews, Phillips has not explicitly stated he served in Vietnam, calling himself a veteran of “Vietnam times” or “Vietnam days.” But he has not corrected widespread reporting identifying him as a “Vietnam veteran.”

Phillips told the Democratic Underground regarding his military service: “I’m what they call a ‘recon ranger.’ That was my role.”

In an interview a decade ago, he apparently indicated he had been deployed overseas, contrary to his DD-214.

A 2008 Indian Country Today article, Shipley pointed out, reported Phillips “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,” he said.

Shifting story

Phillips repeatedly has changed his account of the incident on Friday afternoon with the Covington Catholic High School students. He originally told the Washington Post the students swarmed him as he left the Indigenous People’s March, and he charged student Nick Sandmann blocked his path.

It was a viral video of his face-to-face encounter with Sandmann accompanied by Phillips’ claim that the boys confronted him that fueled the misreporting. Longer videos emerged, however, refuting Phillips’ version, showing Phillips approached the high school boys during their school cheers. And some of the people with him were hurling racial insults at the boys.

Phillips then altered his story in an interview with the Detroit Free Press, claiming he was a peacemaker who was trying to stop the boys’ racial insults directed at four “old black individuals,” referring to members of a group called the Black  Hebrew Israelites.

“These young men were beastly and these old black individuals was their prey, and I stood in between them and so they needed their pounds of flesh and they were looking at me for that,” he said.

But videos show the Black Hebrew Israelites were hurling racist and anti-gay slurs at the high school students.

In a statement, Sandmann wrote that the men “called us ‘racists,’ ‘bigots,’ ‘white crackers,’ ‘faggots,’ and ‘incest kids.'”

“They also taunted an African-American student from my school by telling him that they would ‘harvest his organs,'” he said.

Video evidence supports Sandmann’s statement, but on Tuesday Phillips doubled down.

“He needs to put out a different statement,” Phillips said of Sandmann. “I’m disappointed with his statement. He didn’t accept any responsibility. That lack of responsibility, I don’t accept it.”

And he suggested the students’ actions might merit expulsion.

“At first, I wanted the teachers and chaperones to be reprimanded — some fired — for letting this happen. For the students, I was against any expulsions, but now I have to revisit that,” he said.

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