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When someone says they’ve been “shot at” before, what do you imagine? If you’re like most of us, the phrase means someone has pointed a gun at you and fired, whether this is something that happened in service to our country or by some criminal with ill intent here at home.

However, for newly-elected President Joe Biden, apparently, the phrase means something slightly different.

We know this because the man has mentioned quite a few times in recent years that he has been shot at while overseas visiting our troops in Iraq. And yet, every time, further details or dissection of the events in question prove something altogether different.

His most recent statement to this effect happened on Thursday when making remarks to the State Department. Per the transcript, Biden said, “what we never talk about is you not only have great intellectual capacity, you have a great personal courage.”

He went on to explain this by saying, “I’ve been with some of you when we’ve been shot at, I’ve been with some of you when we’ve been in places that you would not have any idea you’d want to be when you were going to school of foreign policy and foreign service, they never told you that was going to happen.”

Biden makes them sound brave, doesn’t he? And I’m not saying that they aren’t. However, this statement has some problems, mainly that it is nearly precisely like ones he has made before about being “shot at,” and all were disproved.

In 2007, he mentioned that he’d been to Baghdad’s “Green Zone” several times and “shot at,” according to Fox News.  

However, when asked to explain what must have been a rather harrowing experience, the dangers of what Biden had previously insinuated unraveled.

As it turns out, Biden has been to the Green Zone multiple times, and multiple times there have been shots fired or mortar rounds landing in the general vicinity. But none of them put Biden in any real danger, and it certainly wasn’t clear anyone was targeting him.

One of those times was in 2005 when a “shot” landed outside the building where then-Senator Biden was staying at the time with several other senators. According to all accounts of the story, it was in the morning, and the party was getting ready to begin their day. Biden was shaving.

And while the round “shook the aides’ trailer and rattled the building where Biden was getting ready for the day,” according to a Biden aide, the threat was nowhere near serious. In fact, Biden even remarked when telling the story once, that “No one got up and ran from the room – it’s wasn’t that kind of thing. It’s not like had someone holding a gun to my head.”

Biden could have also been talking about a time during that same December 2005 trip when, according to The Hill, “a bullet narrowly missed the helicopter that Biden and his aides were flying in en route to the Baghdad airport from the Green Zone.”

But once again, no damage was done, and there is little reason to believe anyone was shooting at the aircraft because Biden was on it.

According to Susan Crabtree of The Hill, “the most harrowing episode, according to an aide present, took place in December of 2004, while Biden was leaving Iraq in a C-130 cargo airplane. The plane’s anti-missile system was triggered, indicating that they had been fired upon by a surface to air missile.”

However, nothing ever hit the plane, and it obviously wasn’t in any real danger.

A spokeswoman for Biden, Elizabeth Alexander, tried to smooth over Biden’s exaggerations by saying, “When mortars are fired into the Green Zone or surface-to-air missiles are fired at a plane, they don’t have names or addresses on them. The nuance of being shot at or shot near means nothing in a war zone. The point. Sen. Biden was making is that Iraq is a dangerous place – for our troops, for Iraqis, for everyone.”

But as legislative director for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Patrick Campbell says, that’s not the way Biden makes it sound. He, like most of us, says “shot at” implies when “someone with an AK-47 pops up and is taking shots at you.” And “Veterans don’t like it when people mischaracterize their service, people who overstate what happens to them. We have names for them.”

This is another example of what the Atlantic’s Mark Bowden describes as Biden’s “limber storyteller’s tendency to stretch” the truth. And that might be fine for some fishing tales, it’s not ok to maximize yourself while at the same time belittling what our armed servicemen and women do.