Washington Lawmaker Accused Of Exaggerating Military Service

news

An altered photo and unverified claims of combat wounds, medals, and overseas service have landed Washington State Rep. Graham Hunt, a Republican from Orting, Washington, on a growing list of public figures accused of embellishing their military service.


A Jan. 24 feature on Hunt’s military career by The Seattle Times investigates Hunt’s claim that he is a combat veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and alleges that public remarks and social media posts made by Hunt and his staff may have exaggerated aspects of his military service.

The article calls into question Hunt’s claims that he was wounded in combat when he was “knocked down by explosions,” though he “cannot remember where” it happened. Among other things Hunt can’t recall are the dates he deployed, where exactly he was, and what units he was with.

Hunt is not the only public figure recently accused of embellishing aspects of, or an affiliation with, military service.

In November 2015, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson took flak for comments he made about being offered a West Point scholarship as a result of his work in a high school Junior Reserve Officers Training Course. In January 2015, a news package from CBS showed Veteran Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald falsely claiming to have served in Special Forces. And in February 2015 news anchor Brian Williams was suspended from NBC after his claims to have been involved in a Helicopter crash during the 2003 Iraq Invasion were found to be false.

Related: A judges panel just ruled stolen valor as free speech.

At a time when America’s military and its veterans are on the receiving end of unprecedented generosity and public support, touting an affiliation with that community can go a long way to boosting one’s credibility. But, it’s also a time of incredible access to information and there is the possibility that any comment, post, or statement made online may be stored somewhere. This means that if you say something untrue, by accident or not, it’s likely to come back and bite you in the ass.

This appears to be the case with a photo that ran on Hunt’s Facebook page in May 2014. The image depicted two service members kneeling in desert uniforms comforting each other, and ran with the following tagline:

“This picture of me was taken after a mortar attack in 2005,” read Hunt’s Facebook post. “Background has been modified, but I think combat camera captured the moment pretty well. I surely have not forgotten that moment.”

But, there’s a problem with that photo and caption. Hunt’s not in the picture, and it wasn’t taken in 2005 after a mortar attack.

The 2003 Associated Press photo shows David Borell and Brian Pacholski, two soldiers from Toledo, Ohio, according to the Toledo Blade. Additionally, the version of the photo on Hunt’s Facebook page was doctored, with the Army insignias removed and replaced with an Air Force staff sergeant’s rank — Hunt’s rank when he left the service. The image also included the phrase “knows the sacrifice” and the campaign slogan “still fighting for our country.”

Hunt said a campaign volunteer posted the image to his account, but declined to identify the individual to spare him or her from any embarrassment, but Hunt did say that he took “full responsibility for it,” according to The Seattle Times.

In addition to the Facebook image, Hunt allegedly removed references to several awards from his biography following his Seattle Times interview, including the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal. The Air Reserve Personnel Center told The Seattle Times that these medals do not appear on Hunt’s service record, but the records may not be up to date.

Hunt served in the Air National Guard from 1998 to 2005 and was based at Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base in Phoenix, according to Lt. Col. Belinda Petersen, a spokeswoman with the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Colorado, reported The Associated Press. From 2005 until 2010, he was a nonparticipating reservist, at which point he separated from the military. Currently, Hunt is the Washington state chairman for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign.

Records obtained by The Seattle Times did not say whether Hunt was deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, but did note that he served overseas in Saudi Arabia. The records also indicated that Hunt was deployed for a time to a classified location “in support of military operations.”

In response to The Seattle Times article, Hunt’s office released a statement on Jan. 23.

“I have been completely transparent with Mr. Brunner about my military service,” read the statement. “I am a combat veteran, and served my country overseas in multiple deployments to the Middle East, including to Iraq and Afghanistan. I am proud to have served this country honorably in the armed forces, and will continue to do so in my service as a state representative.”

The announcement notes that Hunt does have records for the following awards: Air Force Achievement Medal, Air Force Expeditionary Service Medal, Combat Readiness Medal. National Defense Service Medal, Air Reserve Force Meritorious Service Medal with two devices and Armed Forces Reserve Medal.

Photo via Flickr

Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal officially endorsed Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) for president on July 18. A former Marine infantry officer who deployed to Iraq four times, Moulton joined McChrystal on MSNBC to discuss the endorsement, and whether he's bothered that he hasn't found a spot on the crowded Democratic debates so far.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bill Dodge)

The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer shot down an Iranian drone Thursday in the Strait of Hormuz, President Donald Trump announced.

"The Boxer took defensive action against an Iranian drone which had closed into a very, very near distance – approximately 1,000 yards – ignoring multiple calls to stand down and was threatening the safety of the ship and the ship's crew," Trump said during a White House ceremony. "The drone was immediately destroyed."

"This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters," he continued. "The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, our facilities, our interests and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran's attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce. I also call on other nations to protect their ships as they go through the Strait and to work with us in the future."

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Army/Sgt. Michael L. K. West)

The Army may be celebrating its prized Army Futures Command (AFC) reaching full operational capability, but the organization's leaders still have quite a to-do list in front of them.

AFC commander Gen. John Murray briefed reporters on Thursday alongside Bruce Jette, the Army's Assistant Secretary of Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, on the progress of the Army's modernization roadmap and what's coming down the pipe to help soldiers soldiers win the conflicts of the future.

But while that lawmakers skirted questions on the war in Afghanistan during former Secretary of the Army Mark Esper's confirmation hearing for defense secretary this week, AFC's top priority remains, first and foremost, the soldiers fighting in conflict zones right now.

Read More Show Less

The official trailer for Top Gun: Maverick is here, and if you were praying to God there would be another volleyball scene, you are in luck.

Slated to hit theaters in 2020, the sequel to 1986 classic features Tom Cruise back in the role of Maverick, only this time he's a Navy captain behind the stick of an F/A-18 Hornet.

The two-minute trailer features a number of throwbacks to the original Top Gun: There's Maverick pulling the cover off his motorcycle and driving down the flight line, a shirtless volleyballer (there was no way you would have escaped this), and a piano-playing scene with Great Balls of Fire, my man.

Directed by Joseph Kosinski, the film also stars Jon Hamm, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, and Ed Harris. The film hits theaters on June 26, 2020.

Watch the trailer below:

Top Gun: Maverick - Official Trailer (2020) - Paramount Pictures www.youtube.com

Marine veteran Brian Tally has been fighting for the last three years.

Read More Show Less