[There was a video here]

During the first Democratic debate of the 2016 presidential cycle, the candidates were asked by moderator Anderson Cooper to reveal which enemy they were most proud of having made. They all gave rather predictable responses—the coal industry, the NRA, Republicans—until the question moved to Jim Webb, who sorta creepily talked about killing a guy, in the process glossing over what was actually a rather remarkable event in war.

This was Webb’s response:

I’d have to say the enemy soldier that threw the grenade that wounded me, but he’s not around right now to talk to...

His tone made it clear he was playing the second clause of that sentence as a laugh line, except there was only sparse uncomfortable chuckling as Webb flashed a weird self-satisfied grin and Anderson Cooper hurriedly moved onto the next question.

But Webb’s story is actually far more interesting than that glib answer makes it seem. From the citation accompanying the Navy Cross that was awarded to Webb after Vietnam:

On 10 July 1969, while participating in a company-sized search and destroy operation deep in hostile territory, First Lieutenant Webb’s platoon discovered a well-camouflaged bunker complex which appeared to be unoccupied. Deploying his men into defensive positions, First Lieutenant Webb was advancing to the first bunker when three enemy soldiers armed with hand grenades jumped out. Reacting instantly, he grabbed the closest man and, brandishing his .45 caliber pistol at the others, apprehended all three of the soldiers. Accompanied by one of his men, he then approached the second bunker and called for the enemy to surrender. When the hostile soldiers failed to answer him and threw a grenade which detonated dangerously close to him, First Lieutenant Webb detonated a claymore mine in the bunker aperture, accounting for two enemy casualties and disclosing the entrance to a tunnel. Despite the smoke and debris from the explosion and the possibility of enemy soldiers hiding in the tunnel, he then conducted a thorough search which yielded several items of equipment and numerous documents containing valuable intelligence data. Continuing the assault, he approached a third bunker and was preparing to fire into it when the enemy threw another grenade. Observing the grenade land dangerously close to his companion, First Lieutenant Webb simultaneously fired his weapon at the enemy, pushed the Marine away from the grenade, and shielded him from the explosion with his own body. Although sustaining painful fragmentation wounds from the explosion, he managed to throw a grenade into the aperture and completely destroy the remaining bunker.

This all ends up making sense considering Webb debated like someone who has seen some serious shit in a doomed war.

Contact the author at jordan@gawker.com.