City Manager City Manager Emilio T. Gonzalez recently wanted to recognize veterans in the City of Miami. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez recently gave certificates of recognition to two members of the City Commission: Willie Gort and Joe Carollo.
Gort served in the Army Reserves and was recognized for that service. Carollo’s paper stated that Carollo was a veteran of the United State Marine Corps Reserve. Joe’s time in uniform may be one of the best kept secrets in Miami.
In fact, it has gotten the attention of a bevy of investigative reporters, both in television and in print. They’re all chasing down the story of whether Joe was ever a “G.I.”.
Most politician’s favorite topics is themselves. Former Vice President Joe Biden famously quipped that all Rudy Giuliani needed for a sentence was “a noun, a verb, and 9/11.” Our current Commander-In-Chief can’t resist the temptation to turn every national victory or tragedy into a story about him.
Joe, however, seems reluctant to talk about his time in the military. A check of his official City of Miami webpage reveals little more than the fact that he’s the Commissioner from District 3. His biography on www.prabook.com lists the fact that he was born in Cuba in 1955 and came to the U.S. in 1961, has four kids, and was once arrested for domestic violence. The Miami Herald once described Joe as “bombastic, sometimes paranoid, often vindictive toward those he believed crossed him, but always colorful.” However, there is no mention of Carollo’s time in the Marine Reserves that could be easily found.
That is not to say that Joe has never spent time in uniform. In 1973, when he was 18, Carollo applied to become a firefighter, a corrections officer, and a police officer. He got as far as becoming a public service officer in October. A “public service officer” is like a lite beer version of a cop. You get a uniform and a kind of badge, but no gun or power to make arrests.
His tenure as a PSO was rocky. He was given a written reprimand for insensitivity for sticking a cartoon of the Klu Klux Klan into the mailboxes of several police officers. The Miami New Times noted that in August 1976, Carollo “was again cited, this time for excessive use of sick leave.” Joe resigned as a PSO on September 8, 1976.
His commander at the airport district, dropped this evaluation into his personnel file upon his separation from the force: “Based upon continuing problems in the areas of attitude, attendance, adherence to rules and regulations, and his less-than-satisfactory performance, Officer Carollo is not recommended for re-employment.”
Thus, Joe’s sole service in uniform appeared to have ended almost 42 years ago.
Nevertheless, City Manager Gonzalez arranged for Mayor Suarez to hand Carollo a veteran’s commendation, apparently on Joe’s say-so alone.
Miami is filled with wannabe spies and pretend black operators who, over cafecitos and glasses of cerveza, spin fictions of service and glory. However, old men who exaggerate their heroics do more than swap tall tales.
They steal valor.
They insult everyone who has rightfully served. They heap dishonor on the memories of those who battled. They cheapen the honor of the sons and daughters who sacrificed their youth and all too often their lives in service to our nation.
The story of whether Carollo actually served is going to break in the coming days. Freedom of Information Act requests have already been made to the Pentagon by several news outlets. There is no exemption for the release of Carollo’s military records, if they exist. Or for the fact that there are none, if they don’t.
Joe’s claim that the repairs at his house were done under a secret renovation code that exempted him from the City’s jurisdiction lacked credibility. A potential claim that his service record is so secret that the Secretary of Defense has to disavow it for national security reasons won’t hold water, either.
Joe can get in front of this story today. He can show that he is a victim of a campaign of whispered innuendo. He could produce his DD 214 form, showing the dates of service and discharge. Given his history with the Miami-Dade Police Department, it’s doubtful he got a Good Conduct Medal. Nevertheless, he might prove his service with copies of citations he was awarded.
I hope he served. I hope Joe served and was discharged honorably. If he can, he will still be a bully. At least he won’t be a coward.
But if he can’t produce that proof and it turns out that his claimed service was a hoax, if Carollo came forward and was recognized by Gonzalez, Suarez, and the City of Miami for military service that he never undertook, he has only one option.
He must resign immediately. And he must resign in disgrace.
There can never be redemption for a man who steals the honor belonging to others. The ball is in your court, Joe. Either put up or slink away.