Over the last week, various media outlets and others have raised questions about my experiences and achievements in the United States Armed Forces. I feel it is necessary to speak on these matters, as I have been and always will be completely open with my constituents, the citizens of Washington.
At the onset, I want to be clear that I take full responsibility for my actions, and I sincerely apologize for any confusion that has been created – either by me or by people who have worked or volunteered under my direction.
I served as a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force, having gone through basic training in 1998 and graduating from the U.S. Air Force Law Enforcement Academy in 1999. I served in the United States National Guard until I was called up to active duty in the wake of the terrorists attacks on 9/11. In early 2002, I was deployed under Operation Enduring Freedom for a short period before returning home to tend to a family-related health issue. I returned to the Middle East in December 2002, this time to Saudi Arabia and to classified locations. In May 2003, I was sent on assignments into Iraq shortly after the United Stated declared war. While returning from one of these expeditions, I was involved in a gun battle in Saudi Arabia. I returned stateside in June 2003.
While in the United States, I graduated from U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Nuclear, High-Yield Explosive School and was then deployed again in 2005. I served in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates until returning home later that year. In 2006, I was honorably discharged. However, the Seattle Times mistakenly reported that I was honorably discharged in 2010 in their recent article.
Some of the assignments I was given required joint involvement between the Air Force and other branches of the armed forces. I have publicly stated that I served with Marines on these assignments, which is completely accurate. Apparently, some people have understood this to mean that I served in the Marine Corps. This is not the case, and I apologize for not devoting a more concentrated effort in quashing this confusion.
For my service, I have been awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal, Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon, Combat Readiness Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Air Reserve Force Meritorious Service Medal, 2 Devices, and Armed Forces Reserve Medal. I had originally listed my Air Force Expeditionary Service Medal as the Iraq Campaign Medal on my online biography. This was an honest mistake, as the Expeditionary Service Ribbon was earned from my deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and my expedition into Iraq in 2003. As soon as the error was brought to my attention, I immediately took action to fix it.
Questions have also arisen over whether I was injured during my service in the Middle East. While overseas, I, like many servicemen and women, was exposed to extremely intense and traumatic situations. I have stated that I was injured, and this is true. I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or “PTSD”. This is a very common disorder among military veterans. In fact, according to the United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs, up to twenty percent (20%) of veterans who have served in the last fifteen years suffer from some sort of PTSD. This disorder is often misunderstood and potentially under diagnosed. Because the injuries associated with PTSD are not physical, it is often difficult to determine the exact moment or place which triggered the disorder.
In my efforts to work through my condition, I have always referred to it as the very real injury that it is, for thousands of those who serve or have served. As mental health providers learn more and more about PTSD, it is critical that we encourage our soldiers to seek help for their emotional and mental injuries, rather than suffer in silence or denial. I have always been an advocate for veteran’s issues, and strongly believe that more awareness needs to be raised regarding PTSD.
Another issue I would like to address concerns a photograph of two servicemen comforting each other that was posted to my political Facebook page in May of 2014. The photograph was doctored and uploaded by a volunteer who no longer is affiliated with my campaign or office. After the issue had been brought to my attention, I removed the photograph from the page and addressed the issue with the staffer. I take full responsibility for what happened, and have since made multiple public apologies. The actions taken by volunteers and members of my staff are ultimately my responsibility.
Finally, I have produced all military records currently in my possession, and am working to obtain all records that remain available. Records with the Air Reserve Personnel Center were not automated in 2001 or 2003, so obtaining such records has already proven to be very difficult. It is unclear whether all of my military records even still exist today. This process could take weeks, if not months. Rest assured, any and all records I am able to compile will be provided and will confirm the details of my military service. My hope is that these records will do away with any remaining confusion, and restore my constituents’ trust in me as their elected representative.
This experience has been very trying, both for my family and me. I hope to learn from the mistakes I have made as I continue to diligently and aggressively advocate for the interests of the people of Washington’s Second District. The work to be done in the current legislative session takes priority over these matters, and I assure the people of my district that the legislative goals we have worked on together continue to be of the highest level of importance.
As I have stated before, I am proud to have served honorably in the armed forces, just as I am honored and humbled by those who have elected me and entrusted me to look out for them as their state representative. I appreciate all of those who have offered their support as I have worked through this issue, and look forward to helping my district and state meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.