Ohio Republican remains campaigning amid service scrutiny

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HOLLAND, Ohio (AP) — Republican JR Majewski insisted Friday that he would stay in the running for a competitive congressional seat in northwest Ohio after the Associated Press reported earlier this week that he misrepresented key elements of his Air Force service.

“I have often flown in combat zones, particularly in Afghanistan, and I have served my country with pride,” Majewski told a press conference.

The comments came amid growing fallout for Majewski, who has repeatedly said he deployed to Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks but instead served six months loading and unloading planes while that he was based in Qatar, according to records obtained by the AP via an audience. request for records.

The House Republican campaign arm on Thursday canceled nearly $1 million in advertising it had planned to spend on Majewski’s name, a sign that the GOP was effectively giving up hope of unseating the longtime Democratic representative. Marcy Kaptur in a district recently redrawn in favor Republicans. Meanwhile, veterans’ advocates have questioned why Majewski refused to provide evidence, or even describe the incursions he made into Afghanistan.

Throughout his campaign, Majewski has repeatedly stated that he was a veteran who served a tour of duty under “difficult” circumstances in Afghanistan, where, according to his account, he once spent more than 40 days without a shower due to a lack of running water.

His final remarks amounted to a much less robust description of what he says he did in the country. Majewski previously said he was deployed to the country, a term that refers to orders assigning service members to a specific base or location.

On Friday he said his duty involved flying to and from Afghanistan from Qatar, but declined to provide further details or evidence as he said he was “classified”.

While based in Qatar, Majewski would land at other airbases to transfer military passengers, doctors and supplies, his campaign had previously said. The campaign did not respond to repeated and direct questions from the AP before the article was published Wednesday about whether he had ever been in Afghanistan.

They also gave no indication that he couldn’t discuss his service because it was “classified,” as Majewski put it.

“I was in several bases in Afghanistan and the timeline is clear, in 2002,” Majewski said on Friday. “We have flown several times in the area of ​​responsibility. It’s almost impossible for me to tell you where I was and what day. This is why my orders are listed as a classified location.

Experts contacted by the AP say it is possible that Majewski entered the country. They also say Majewski is well positioned to prove it, although Majewski’s campaign declined to do so on Friday.

“It was no secret that we were operating in Afghanistan,” said Don Christensen, a retired colonel and former military judge who once served as the Air Force’s chief prosecutor. “It would be quite easy for him to find a supervisor or a colleague who could check if he was actually there. His (enlisted performance report) would most likely have been signed by his supervisor. That person would know if it was true.

Scott Taylor, a former Navy SEAL sniper and Republican who represented Virginia in Congress, said he didn’t understand why Majewski’s campaign refused to explain whether or not he went to Afghanistan. earlier this week.

“Is it possible he took a night flight to Afghanistan to drop off supplies? Yes, it is possible,” said Taylor, who was injured during a combat operation in Ramadi, Iraq, and had to be evacuated. “But again, he should have answered those questions straight away.”

Experts said the discussion of whether or not he entered Afghanistan also clouds the larger picture: Majewski has presented himself for months as a combat veteran who deployed to Afghanistan, descriptors that indicate he came under hostile fire while stationed in the country.

The term “veteran” may conjure up images of soldiers storming a beachhead or finding refuge in a firefight. But according to US government laws and regulations, facing live fire has little to do with someone deserving the title.

During the Persian Gulf War, then-President George H.W. Bush designated, for the first time, countries used as combat support areas as combat zones despite the low risk the U.S. military would face to hostilities. This has helped veterans gain favorable tax status. Qatar, now home to the largest US air base in the Middle East, was among the countries that received the designation under Bush’s executive order – a status that remains in effect today.

Majewski’s campaign previously said he called himself a combat veteran because the place he operated from – Qatar – is recognized as a combat zone. His military records indicate that he was not awarded a combat medal.

“Everyone plays a role. But you have to be proud of your contribution and not try to step on someone else,” said Taylor, the former congressman and Navy SEAL. “Unless he gives evidence and petitions for a fight ribbon, he’s not a fight veteran.”

Majewski’s campaign has posted several documents on social media that they say support his claims or refute parts of the AP story. None of them specify whether or not he was in Afghanistan.

A document from February 2003, while still enlisted in the Air Force, listed Majewski as eligible to re-enlist. However, the AP reported that when Majewski was released several months later, his paperwork said he was “considered but not selected for re-enrollment.”

He also claimed to have provided the AP with a photo that shows him in Afghanistan. The photo, which can also be found on his campaign website, shows a group in fatigues inside what appears to be a shelter, but does not include any indicator of where it was taken.

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