Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said she is, too, a combat veteran.
The newly elected Republican lawmaker defended her military service record after a Huffington Post article pointed out that she never came under fire while serving in Iraq and Kuwait more than a decade ago, reported the Omaha World-Herald.
Ernst led an Iowa Army National Guard transportation company in 2003 and 2004, and the online report suggested the senator is promoting a public misimpression about her military record.
The report pointed out that Ernst frequently reminded voters and now constituents of her combat veteran status, and she has not corrected others when they suggest she led troops into battle.
“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.
Former President George H.W. Bush declared the entire Arabian Peninsula a combat zone through a 1991 executive order that remains in effect.
“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.
A recent poll found that 58 percent of Republicans who are likely to vote next year in the Iowa presidential caucuses believe Ernst has what it takes to become Commander in Chief.
“She’s not afraid of a fight,” said Josh Ehlen, a 33-year-old commercial insurance broker and GOP voter from Waukee.