Seven veterans and one father of a vet who died while serving in Iraq gathered at the Veterans Memorial on the Anchorage Park Strip to defend GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan, a Marine, against questions about his residency in the state.
Those who are questioning Sullivan’s residency “should be ashamed of themselves for attacking Dan Sullivan’s service to America,” said Daniel Juarez, who served with Sullivan in the Marine Reserves. He also said that those who are “attacking” Sullivan should “apologize to service men and women across the country.”
Sullivan is a Marine reservist who’s been in and out of active duty since 1993. Sullivan moved to the state in 1997. However, he was absent for seven years since that time. He left Alaska in 2002 to work at the White House and the State Department before coming back to the state in 2009. For two years during, from 2004 to 2006, he was called into active duty.
Because of his absence from Alaska, the pro-Begich super-PAC, Put Alaska First, has been airing ads questioning Sullivan’s residency claims. The most recent ad calls those claims “fishy.” Likewise, the Alaska Democratic Party, quoting an Anchorage Daily News story, says that Sullivan continues to “airbrush” his residency.
The campaign, as well as the veterans who had gathered on Tuesday, said that the time he spent away from Alaska, both in D.C. and while on active duty, was in service of his country following 9/11. Many who spoke said that they, too, had left the state for the service. They feel that an attack on Sullivan is an attack on them.
“I met Dan Sullivan while both of us were serving up here in the Marines and I understand the difficulty in having to relocate to serve your country,” said retired Marine Corps officer Casey Campbell.
Wayne Woods was there. Woods lost his son, Shane Woods, in Iraq in 2006 while serving in the Army. Shane’s name is on the memorial. Wayne came to show his support of Sullivan because Sullivan, he said “has the same values as my son.”
As I wrote on Sunday, Alaska is chock-full of veterans, and those who are supporting Begich would be wise to tread carefully here. In addition to potentially offending veterans in the state, the national Republicans will be using any statement by challengers perceived to be anti-veteran. Earlier this month, in another hotly contested Senate race, the right jumped on Arkansas’ Sen. Mark Pryor’s statement that challenger Rep. Tom Cotton is viewing his service in the military as an “entitlement.” Pryor described Cotton’s attitude as, ‘I served my country, let me into the Senate.’”
Sullivan himself was with his wife and three school-aged daughters on spring break.
Shortly after the press conference, Begich’s campaign issued the following press release touting Begich’s commitment to vets in the state:
“As a member of the U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee since 2009 U.S. Senator Mark Begich has fought to improve care and services offered to Alaska’s veterans with his unique understanding of rural and urban Alaska.
Begich’s record includes:
Alaska Territorial Guard – In 2009, Senator Begich successfully secured reinstatement of pension payments for members of the WWII-era Alaska Territorial Guard.
“Significant legislative victory for veterans” – The Disabled American Veterans called Begich’s push to establish advanced appropriation for veterans health programs “the most significant legislative victory of veterans in a generation.”
Extended TRICARE for Military Dependents – In 2011, Begich helped extended TRICARE services for dependent children of military members to the age of 26.
Waived Telehealth Copays – In 2012, Begich and Sen. Grassley’s proposal to waive copays for telehealth and telemedicine visits for veterans was signed into law.
Historic Rural Care Access – Begich followed through on campaign promise to help veterans access care closer to home by allowing rural veterans access to Native health facilities.
U.S. Navy Award – In February 2013, Begich was given the highest civilian award from the U.S. Navy, the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, for outstanding service and work on behalf of the Navy.
Gene Horner, Alaska veteran, agrees with Begich’s record of accomplishment and today lauded his efforts in the U.S. Senate:
Gene Horner – Retired Army Vietnam Veteran:
“Mark has personally been there for Alaska’s military families, from fighting in Congress, to working with the VA, when veterans need him he answers the call. He’s fought for Alaska’s military past and present including those who served our country before statehood. He listens to us both as veterans and fellow Alaskans and recognizes the sacrifices we have made. Mark has always been a fighter for Alaskans in uniform.”
Contact Amanda Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction: Sullivan has three daughters, not two, as the story originally said. Also, the timeline has been updated.