The Southern Illinoisan: Guest View: Kirk’s smear campaign against Duckworth’s record is disgraceful
As a Marine Corps veteran of the war in Iraq, I’ve been on the edge of my seat following the Illinois Senate race between two veteran contenders. The number of veterans serving in the U.S. Congress is at an all-time low, so it’s refreshing to see veterans campaigning for an opportunity to continue their service to our country. But, I’m increasingly dismayed by the track record of Sen. Mark Kirk and recent actions he and his billionaire backers have taken to try and secure his re-election.
Instead of sticking to the issues that matter to Illinois voters — including the more than 700,000 veterans who call Illinois home — Sen. Kirk is waging a smear campaign on the reputation and service of our fellow veteran, Rep. Tammy Duckworth. It’s disgraceful.
Duckworth is a decorated combat veteran who has sacrificed greatly for our country. When a rocket-propelled grenade hit her helicopter in Iraq, she lost her legs and the partial use of one of her arms. But she didn’t let it stop her service. During the year she spent recovering in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, she decided she was going to make it her mission to help her fellow veterans. Or, as she tells it, pay back the debt of gratitude she owes to her buddies who carried her bleeding from the battlefield.
She frequently says, “Every day, I try to live up to, and be worthy of, the sacrifice of my buddies and the courage they showed.”
And she’s never stopped serving — serving her fellow veterans, serving the people of Illinois, serving the United States of America. I’m struck by that commitment.
Kirk is also a veteran. He served honorably and with distinction for 23 years in the United States Navy. But while representing Illinois in the U.S. Senate, he voted against funding for veterans’ education, job training and healthcare benefits. But my concern about him goes deeper than that.
He’s also — and this is something we in the veteran community take extremely seriously — been caught flat-out lying about his service on a number of occasions. He said he was Naval Intelligence Officer of the Year. He wasn’t. He said he served in combat. He didn’t. Mr. Kirk tries to sell himself to voters as a person of integrity. He’s not.
How can we trust a candidate who lies to us, and who has voted to undermine the very resources our country’s veterans and military families need to thrive?
We need veterans in the U.S. Senate. We need leaders in the U.S. Senate. We need Tammy Duckworth in the U.S. Senate.
Will Fischer is the executive director of the Union Veterans Council, AFL-CIO. He’s a Marine and a veteran of the war in Iraq.
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