February 10, 2015

Freshman Senator Joni Ernst is facing some controversy when she campaigned on being a combat veteran and never faced any combat.

When most people hear "combat veteran," they think firefights with the enemy. But the military defines combat veteran differently -- as soldiers who served in a combat area.


Real combat veterans I spoke to don't think much of how the Senator talks up her combat duty. Larry Hanft, for instance, who earned the Combat Infantryman's Badge fighting in Vietnam, says, "By her definition, everybody who stepped off the plan in Kuwait is a combat veteran. Joni Ernst is using her military experience to gain a political edge and pull the wool over the eyes of the American people. She's a fraud..." Mr. Hanft is one of Sen. Ernst's constituents.

The Army has a different version of what facing combat means to you or I, but for Ernst to bring it up incessantly as a campaign tool is very low brow.

“I am very proud of my service and by law I am defined as a combat veteran,” Ernst said. “I have never once claimed that I have a Combat Action Badge. I have never claimed that I have a Purple Heart. What I have claimed is that I have served in a combat zone.”

The Veterans of Foreign Wars defines a combat veteran as anyone who receives imminent danger pay, which is typically reserved for those who serve in combat zones and potentially risk coming under enemy fire.

“It was only by luck and the blessings of God that my soldiers did not encounter an assault, that we did not run over an IED,” Ernst said. “To dishonor our service by saying we’re not worthy of being called combat veterans is insulting to the majority of men and women who serve their country honorably.”“Just because I’m not an infantryman and I wasn’t kicking in doors, I don’t believe I’m less of a player,” she added.

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