Sen. Joni Ernst proudly calls herself a "combat veteran" because she served in the Iraq War in a combat zone from February 2003 to April 2004.
Ernst, a Republican, never saw any actual combat, but was a commander of a Iowa National Guard unit that made deliveries in Kuwait and southern Iraq. The unit never fired on the enemy or got fired upon during its 14 months.
"By her definition, everybody who stepped off the plane in Kuwait is a combat veteran," Larry Hanft, a Vietnam veteran who earned the Combat Infantryman's Badge, told The Huffington Post. "Joni Ernst is using her military experience to gain a political edge and pull the wool over the eyes of the American people. She's a fraud..."
Technically, Ernst, who represents Iowa, can say it was a combat zone because President George H.W. Bush declared the Arabian Peninsula a combat zone in 1991 — during the first Iraq War — with an executive order that is still current.
Ernst is standing by the description of “combat veteran," reports Omaha.com.
“I am very proud of my service and by law I am defined as a combat veteran,” Ernst said in a statement. “I have never once claimed that I have a Combat Action Badge. I have never claimed that I have a Purple Heart. What I have claimed is that I have served in a combat zone.”
“Just because I’m not an infantryman and I wasn’t kicking in doors, I don’t believe I’m less of a player,” she added.
“Our fighters would be nowhere if they didn’t have the support coming from folks like those that served with me,” stated Ernst.