Should Wounded War Vets Get Your Vote?

Should a black person vote for a black person because he’s black? Should an Italian get your vote because you’re Italian? Should a wounded war vet get your vote because of his wounds and “hero”.1 List any number of groups, colors, and ethnic origins and ask the same question.

Rep. Joe Walsh’s Democratic opponent, Tammy Duckworth, is a double amputee. Walsh has repeatedly said that he considers Tammy Duckworth a hero but that her sacrifice “doesn’t demand our vote.” I agree.

“Walsh — a Tea Party favorite — made his initial comments about Duckworth’s service during a July 1 town hall, saying of her injuries, ‘My God, that’s all she talks about’ and charging that ‘true heroes’ don’t talk about their service.”

My father, Anthony J. DeMar (That’s him in the above picture. I’m sitting on my mother’s lap to my father’s right. My brother is sitting on his left leg.), served in WW II. He was at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed on December 7, 1941. He survived. He served in the Pacific soon after. He also served in the Korean War. On February 28, 1951, my father was “seriously wounded in action by [a] missile” that resulted in the loss of his right leg at mid-thigh. You can read the army record here.

My father rarely talked about his war experiences. He never took advantage of his disability. He never used his disability to guilt someone into a job or a reduction in payment for repairs or purchases. You never would have known my father was an amputee until you saw him walk. He belonged to a bowling league, danced at my brother’s wedding, golfed (walking the course), and coached Little League baseball. He never used his disability as an excuse for anything he did. I watched him build framing for a sidewalk at our house, finishing the concrete himself. He also helped one of my uncles build his concrete patio.

If my father ran for public office, would he have mentioned his war experiences? Only if he was asked. Would he have made his military service a campaign issue? Absolutely not! Would I have voted for my father because of his disability? No, I wouldn’t, and he wouldn’t have expected anyone else to either. A candidate should be evaluated on how his or her views line up with the Constitution.

Max Cleland is a multiple amputee of the Vietnam War. He received the Silver Star and the Bronze Star. He served as a U.S. Senator representing Georgia from 1997 to 2003. Why was he voted out of office? Even though people had great sympathy for him because of his war wounds, they didn’t like the way he voted in his six years as Senator.

Walsh is right:

“We can’t afford to elect anybody this year based just on their bio. [Tammy Duckworth’s] background deserves and demands our respect, but it doesn’t demand our vote. For that, we’ve got to know what we think you’re going to do when it comes to the issues in this country, and for some reason, she doesn’t talk about those things.”

  1. I believe the word “hero” is overused. Even sport stars are described as heroes. []