It doesn't take very long on the obits beat to learn that families routinely exaggerate the importance of their deceased relative's achievements. Occasionally, the deceased person has participated in the deception; often it's simply a matter of relatives who extrapolate from stories they heard or who don't think it's such a big deal to fudge the truth to get more attention
Well, truth and accuracy do matter. Time and time again, we learn that the man whose family says he was awarded the Medal of Honor never actually got it. Other times, the deceased claimed three awards of the Silver Star, but only one citation can be found. Not saying we're perfect by any stretch, but we try to print what can be verified.
So we didn't print this story about Robert Decatur, who claimed over the years to be a Tuskegee combat pilot. But many others did.
Now the Orlando Sentinel newspaper finds that Mr. Decatur's achievements were exaggerated. He was a Tuskegee Airman because he was a cadet, but he did not complete pilot training. He did not graduate from flying school and never flew in combat. He also seems to have exaggerated his legal achievements -- he was a magistrate, not a judge. (In some small towns, citizens will call magistrates by the title of judge, but these are not the same jobs.)
"The more you exaggerate, the more acclaim you get, and the more acclaim you get, the better it feels," said Alan Keck, an Orlando psychologist.
In death, no one feels anything. Except the pain of a correction.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: Blurgle | September 4, 2009 6:15 PM
Posted by: larrywb | September 8, 2009 7:54 PM