Iowa Senator Joni Ernst says those who question her status as a “combat veteran” are questioning thousands of other men and women who honorably served their country.
Ernst, a Republican from Red Oak, was asked about the issue Monday. She said the criticism is likely generated by liberals after she gained attention on the national stage by winning her Senate race and then giving the Republican response to the president’s State of the Union address.
“It’s very unfortunate, because 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 had a purple heart. What I have claimed is that I have served in a combat zone. I have serve with 150 soldiers who supported our warriors up in Iraq and we all gave very honorable service.”
An article in the Huffington Post questioned Ernst calling herself a combat veteran because she never came under fire. Ernst is a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard and did a tour of duty in Iraq leading a transportation company.
“There are many, many other soldiers, airmen, seamen out there who have served, that haven’t actually been hand-to-hand fighting with the enemy, maybe they haven’t been under 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.
She said its unfortunate the critics target her military service.
“To dishonor our service by saying we are not worthy of being call combat veterans, is insulting to the majority of men and women who served their country honorably,” Ernts said.
Ernst said the men and women she served with are no less valuable soldiers than anyone else.
“You know it’s unfortunate, I think they are throwing a bucket of cold water on those who stepped forward, raised their right hand and said they will defend our country against all enemies, whether foreign or domestic,” Ernst said. “I will honor those veterans and continue to do so until the day I die.”
Ernst said all soldiers who served in a combat zone in Iraq “encountered difficulties” and it’s unfortunate they are being disparaged.
Audio: Ernst’s comments on being a combat veteran. 3:32.