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Former Navy SEAL under fire for gunshot wound story used in campaign for Senate

Tim Sheehy told the Washington Post he lied about his gunshot wound to avoid prompting a military investigation.
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Tim Sheehy, a former Navy SEAL running for a Montana Senate seat has come under fire after a Washington Post report found inconsistencies with a story he told a park ranger about receiving a gunshot wound on a deployment. Photo credit: Screenshot from Tim Sheehy campaign video.

A former Navy SEAL now running for the U.S. Senate has come under fire after media reports found inconsistencies with a story he told a park ranger about a gunshot wound.

Tim Sheehy is running for Montana’s Senate seat currently occupied by Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, who is running for a fourth term. Sheehy received former President Donald Trump’s endorsement for the Senate seat in February

Sheehy is a former Navy SEAL Officer who deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, South America, and the Pacific region, according to his campaign. Sheehy also says he was the first Midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy to participate in the Army’s Special Operations exchange program and the first to graduate from the Army’s Ranger School. After graduation, he was commissioned into the Navy and completed SEAL training. During his service, Sheehy received a bronze star for valor and a purple heart after he was knocked unconscious by an IED blast, according to local reporting

Sheehy was medically separated from active duty due to injuries he received in Afghanistan, according to a resume posted by the Montana legislature. He’s also the CEO of Bridger Aerospace, which provides aerial wildfire surveillance and firefighting services to federal and state government agencies.

Since launching his campaign, Sheehy has widely shared an anecdote of a gunshot wound he said he received while on deployment to Afghanistan. 

“I got thick skin — though it’s not thick enough. I have a bullet stuck in this arm still from Afghanistan,” Sheehy said in a video of a campaign event posted to social media while pointing to his forearm.

But the story of being wounded in Afghanistan conflicts with one he told a park Ranger in 2015, according to the Washington Post. On a 2015 visit to Montana’s Glacier National Park, Sheehy told a park ranger that he accidentally shot himself in the right arm when his Colt .45 revolver fell and discharged while loading his vehicle in the park, according to a record reviewed by the Washington Post and filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. He paid a $525 fine for illegally discharging his weapon in the national park.

Sheehy told the Post this week that the story he told the park ranger in 2015 was false, and then he had been shot in Afghanistan. In 2015, he said, he had fallen and hurt himself on a hike which led to a trip to an emergency room. There, he said, he told hospital staff he had a bullet in his arm which triggered inquiry from the park ranger.

More recently, Sheehy told the Washington Post that he told the Ranger he had shot himself that day in order to defuse any further inquiry into the wound’s Afghanistan origin. He wanted, he said, to protect himself and fellow platoon-mates from facing a military investigation. “It was a small price to pay to make sure that a whole team of really great Americans didn’t get dragged through the mud over this,” he told the publication.

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An inquiry into how Sheehey was shot in Afghanistan, a spokesperson for Sheehy told Task & Purpose, could have resulted in a teammate being “punished.”

“The bullet in Tim’s arm was a result of his service in Afghanistan. Tim never reported it because he didn’t want to trigger an investigation of his team, be pulled from the battlefield, and see a fellow teammate be punished,” a spokesperson for the campaign told Task & Purpose in an email. “It was always about protecting a fellow team member of his unit he thought could have been responsible due to friendly fire ricochet in the heat of an engagement with the enemy.”

After the Post’s reporting, VoteVets, a progressive organization dedicated to Veterans issues and getting former service members elected to public office, slammed Sheehy’s new story. 

“This is deeply troubling reporting and raises serious questions about Mr. Sheehy and his truthfulness. Misrepresenting aspects of one’s Military service is never appropriate,” the group posted to X.

The Sheehy spokesperson called the inquiry into the story an effort to “to tear down a combat veteran’s record is appalling.”

“Tim Sheehy humbly served our nation with honor. He has never called himself a hero, but he served alongside them. Many of them never came home. It’s no surprise that the Washington Post is working to question his service and the fact that he sustained injuries in the war – let alone need to see an x-ray confirming it,” spokesperson said. “Because he is a Republican running for office, the liberal elite misinformation machine is going to great lengths to question and attack it.”

Sheehy has not shied away from using other combat injuries as part of his election campaign. Another post promoting his campaign read, “I have shrapnel in my leg so I’m used to getting shot at.”

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