Update August 2009: Bluestem Prairie welcomes readers coming in to this post via Dave Thul's blog, Domestic and Foreign.
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A letter in today's Mankato's Free Press:
Back in February, from here at LSA Anaconda, Balad Air Base in Iraq, I sent an email to Tim Walz, who is running for Congress. Walz has failed to respond, so through this letter I'll ask him again.
I have read the information on his military career. It is impressive and has gained him significant support, to include Al Franken. It strongly suggests that he fought in Iraq or Afghanistan, but does not say which country. Because the information is not classified, Walz can tell the voters where he deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan and his BOG (boots on the ground) dates.
If Walz did not deploy downrange, he should say so.
Will he answer this time?
Major Walter Gates
The letter is not yet online as I transcribe it from the print edition.
Gates came away with the impression that Walz fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tim Walz has always been quite clear that while he was deployed with his National Guard battalion as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, he did not serve in country, but rather in a support function overseas.
Let's take a look at some of these representations. The DCCC has this:
After he was named the Outstanding Young Nebraskan by the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce for his service in the education, military, and small business communities, Walz served overseas with his battalion in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
From his web site bio:
Prior to retiring, Walz served overseas with his battalion in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Operation Enduring Freedom is the name for the conflict in Afghanistan. Surely Gates knows this, as well as what "in support of" means.
But don't take my word for it. Major Gates could go straight to the one Walz supporter whom he mentions in the letter: Al Franken. On Tuesday, January 24, 2006, Air America featured Tim Walz as a "Fighting Dem." Here's what the Air America web site says:
Tim Walz is a National Guard vet, a high school history teacher and served in Italy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Walz, spent 24 years in the Army National Guard before retiring in the spring as a command sergeant major.
UPDATE: Tim Walz has also been pretty clear about his service in interviews and news articles. Take this exchange in the widely circulated City Pages interview:
CP: You are a member of the Minnesota National Guard. How long was your active service?
Walz: I did two stints where I was full-time. I did it in 1989 and then again in 1992. Then in '03 and '04 I did 10 months with Operation Enduring Freedom, where, by luck of the draw, I served in Italy. It was originally Turkey or Iraq and then they changed it to Enduring Freedom and I said, "That's Afghanistan." But they said, "You guys are going to do the supply lines between Turkey and England." We provided total base security and the training for soldiers coming in.
And in an article in Capital Eye, a money-in-politics newsletter from the Center for Responsive Politics, Walz provided straight-forward information about his service:
Walz, who participated in Operation Enduring Freedom—the U.S. military action in Afghanistan—from a base in Italy, called fundraising a “necessary evil” and said he doesn’t like making calls outside of his district.
And here's an excerpt from a 2004 Nick Coleman column about Walz' threatened ejection from the Bush rally, the incident that late prompted Walz to run for office after he had retired from the National Guard:
Walz is a first sergeant in the 125th Field Artillery Battalion in New Ulm. He returned in April from duty providing security at a U.S. base in Italy. (Star Tribune, August 13, 2004)
From a Roll Call article reprinted on Veterans for America in 2005:
Tim Walz, for his part, served in Italy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Now back in Minnesota, the Mankato High School teacher is taking on Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.) next year.
From the BBC in March 2006 in an article about veterans running for office:
Also running are Bronze Star winner Patrick Murphy (Pennsylvania), Joseph Sestak Jr (Pennsylvania) a Navy veteran, and Tim Walz (Minnesota) who served in Italy in support of the Afghan mission.
Sure, sometimes bloggers and supporters get things wrong. (I had to edit a post by Evil Bobby that was up for a nanosecond). But often, the online community of Walz supporters posts corrections. Witness this comment by DFL Veterans Caucus chair Nancy Gertner on MNPublius.