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To follow the coverage of this election, you would thing the war we are fighting right now was in Vietnam, not Iraq. Or that military service, or theoretical support for military servicepeople, was the only credential that would make a good leader. Neither of those things are remotely true. However, looking at who among the heavyweights in each of the major political parties actually served does tell us a few things about the pols’ and pundits’ attitudes toward service and sacrifice, and about their willingness to talk about things they may or may not have experienced firsthand.

Below we offer up a list of the actual military service records of prominent Democrats, Republicans, and pundits, thanks to Jan Frel of Alternet, interspersed with a sampling of quotes from some of the folks who have been busy claiming the veterans as their constituency.

As Frel says, there are some surprises here. Did you know John Kerry received three purple hearts? Just kidding. But there are some trends you should be able to discern:


David Bonior, congressman, once minority whip: Staff Sgt., Air Force, 1968-72.

Leonard Boswell, congressman: Lt. Col., Army, 1956-76; Vietnam, DFCs, Bronze Stars, and Soldier’s Medal.

Jimmy Carter, former president: Seven years in the Navy.

Wesley Clark, candidate for presidential nomination: U.S. Army, 1966-2000, West Point, Vietnam, Purple Heart, Silver Star. Retired 4-star general.

Max Cleland, former senator: Captain, Army, 1965-68; Silver Star and Bronze Star, Vietnam.

Bill Clinton, former president: Did not serve. Student deferments. Entered draft but received 311.

John Conyers, congressman: Army, 1950-57, Korea.

Tom Daschle, senator, democratic leader : 1st Lt., Air Force SAC, 1969-72.

Gray Davis, former governor of California: Army Captain in Vietnam, Bronze Star.

John Dingell, congressman: WWII veteran.

John Edwards, senator, vice presidential candidate: Did not serve.

Richard Gephardt, congressman, majority leader: Air National Guard, 1965-71.

John Glenn, former senator: WWII and Korea; six DFCs and Air Medal with 18 Clusters.

Al Gore, former vice president: enlisted August 1969; sent to Vietnam January 1971 as an army journalist in 20th Engineer Brigade.

Tom Harkin, senator: Lt., Navy, 1962-67; Naval Reserve, 1968-74.

Howell Heflin, former senator: Silver Star.

Fritz Hollings, senator: Army officer in WWII, Bronze Star and seven campaign ribbons.

Daniel Inouye, senator: Army, 1943-47; Medal of Honor, WWII.

Ted Kennedy, senator: Army, 1951-1953.

Bob Kerrey, former senator: Lt. j.g. Navy, 1966-69; Medal of Honor, Vietnam.

John Kerry, senator, presidential candidate: Lt., Navy, 1966-70; Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat V Purple Hearts, Vietnam.

Tom Lantos, congressman: Served in Hungarian underground in WWII. Saved by Raoul Wallenberg.

Bill McBride, candidate for Florida governor: Marine in Vietnam; Bronze Star with Combat V.

George McGovern, former senator and presidential candidate: Silver Star & DFC during WWII.

Walter Mondale, former vice president: Army, 1951-1953

Pete Peterson, former ambassador to Vietnam: Air Force Captain, POW. Purple Heart, Silver Star and Legion of Merit.

Charles Rangel, congressman: Staff Sgt., Army, 1948-52; Bronze Star, Korea.

Jack Reed, senator: Army Ranger, 1971-79; Captain, Army Reserve, 1979-91.

Chuck Robb, former senator: Vietnam.

Pete Stark, congressman: Air Force, 1955-57.

Mike Thompson, congressman: Staff Sgt., 173rd Airborne, Purple Heart.


Eliot Abrams, former state department official: Did not serve.

John Ashcroft, attorney general: Did not serve. Seven deferments to teach business.

Roy Blunt, house whip: Did not serve.

Jeb Bush, governor of Florida: Did not serve.

G.H.W. Bush, former president: Pilot in WWII. Shot down by the Japanese.

George W. Bush, president: Six-year National Guard commitment (served four).
“In times of need, our nation counts on the Guard and Reserve members to fulfill their commitments of service.”

Saxby Chambliss, senator: Did not serve. “Bad knee.” The man who attacked Max Cleland’s patriotism.

Dick Cheney, vice president: Did not serve. Several deferments, the last by marriage. “Now, we’ve lost people—and we’ll lose more before this is over with. And it’s always a tragedy. I know from my own service as Secretary of Defense, the biggest regret you have is that you can’t bring them all home again in one piece.”

Christopher Cox, congressman: Did not serve.

Duke Cunningham, congressman: Nominated for Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, Silver Stars, Air Medals, Purple Hearts.

Tom Delay, house majority leader: Did not serve.
His excuse: “So many minority youths had volunteered for the well-paying military positions to escape poverty and the ghetto that there was literally no room for patriotic folks [like me].” –Houston Press, 1999

Bob Dole, former senator: Honorable veteran.

Douglas Feith, under secretary of defense for policy: Did not serve.

Gerald Ford, president: Navy, WWII.

Bill Frist, senate majority leader: Did not serve.

Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the house of representatives: Did not serve.

Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City: Did not serve.

Lindsey Graham, senator: National Guard lawyer.

Phil Gramm, Former Senator and Congressman: Did not serve.

Chuck Hagel, senator: Two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, Vietnam.

Dennis Hastert, congressman: Did not serve.

Tim Hutchison, former senator: Did not serve.

Jon Kyl, senator: Did not serve.

Trent Lott, senator: Did not serve.

John McCain, Senator: Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross.

Mitch McConnell, senator: Did not serve.

George Pataki, governor of New York: Did not serve. “Freedom requires hard work and sacrifice.”

Richard Perle, chair of the Defense Policy Board: Did not serve.

Ronald Reagan, former president: Due to poor eyesight served in a noncombat role making movies.

Tom Ridge, secretary of homeland security: Bronze Star for Valor in Vietnam.

Karl Rove, Bush campaign mastermind: Did not serve.

Don Rumsfeld, secretary of defense: Served in Navy (1954-57) as aviator and flight instructor.

Rick Santorum, senator: Did not serve.

Antonin Scalia, supreme court justice: Did not serve.

Jeff Sessions, senator: Army Reserves, 1973-1986.

Richard Shelby, senator: Did not serve.

Clarence Thomas, supreme court justice: Did not serve..

J.C. Watts, former congressman: Did not serve.

Vin Weber, former congressman: Did not serve.

Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary for defense: Did not serve.


Bill Bennett: Did not serve.

Paul Gigot: Did not serve.

Sean Hannity: Did not serve.

Bill Kristol: Did not serve.

Rush Limbaugh: Did not serve (4-F with a ‘pilonidal cyst.’)

Chris Matthews: Did not serve.

Michael Medved: Did not serve.

Bill O’Reilly: Did not serve.

Michael Savage: Did not serve.

Kenneth Starr, former special prosecutor: Did not serve.

George Will: Did not serve.

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