Grassroots Commentary

The Importance of Knowing

Paige Cashion · Jun. 10, 2014

Words matter.

Let the whole Susan Rice/Bowe Bergdahl debacle serve as a reminder of the value of having a firm command of a vast vocabulary.

Bless her heart, I’m not sure Rice does and she’s not alone in that regard, today. Perhaps, there was no intent to deceive but, instead, merely a weak understanding of the words, themselves. That, combined with complete ignorance of the fact that, in the military, words like these have almost legal definitions when applied to a soldier’s behavior and, therefore, should be used properly and not loosely.

This week, when given the opportunity to clarify remarks she made on Sunday talk shows, Rice addressed her use of the word honor, in describing Bergdahl’s service. But, when pressed by the reporter to continue and clarify her use of the word distinction she became frustrated, defensive, as though it was redundant to ask such a thing and pressing her for any further explanation was unreasonable, if not petty. I had to ask myself, Does she actually know the *meaning of the word?*

Additionally, I read opinion pieces written by paid professionals who didn’t seem to have a clear grasp of the words’ meaning. One of them admitted openly that he had only a cursory understanding of the term distinction, but that he “knows it when he sees it.”


The words honor and distinction are not difficult words people! Nor are they simply warm, fuzzy descriptors to be applied in general terms to every soldier in uniform. They, themselves, know the meaning of honor and distinction. Hence, their outrage by the party-on-the-patio in the rose garden, last week. And the two are not synonymous of each another. They have very clear and separate meanings:

Honor is carrying out and living the values of respect, duty, loyalty, selfless service, integrity and personal courage in everything you do.

Distinction is having a quality or performing a duty in such a way that it sets something or someone apart from the others in their group.

Technically, one could say Bergdahl did distinguish himself. But, he did so by deserting his platoon. And, we do not give out medals for that type of distinguished service.

Also, a note to the younger generation out there: As you can see, you will not always be able to whip out your IPhone and Google the definition of a word, like, for example, when you’re an advisor to the President and you’re on a Sunday talk show.

Sometimes, on rare occasions, you just might be called on to actually know your sh–. And, if you don’t … you’re sh–!

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