JR Majewski, a Republican House candidate in northern Ohio, has frequently touted himself as a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but the US Air Force’s narrative of his political rise that has been announced by former President Donald J. Trump.
Majewski, 42, was stationed for six months in 2002 in Qatar, the Persian Gulf nation that is now home to the largest US airbase in the Middle East, according to Air Force records obtained by The Times.
Associated Press previously reported about Mr. Majewski’s misrepresentations about his military service, noting that he worked as a “passenger operations specialist” while in Qatar, helping load and unload planes. In addition to Air Force records, he used information he had obtained through a public records request from the National Archives, but which was not immediately available Thursday.
Melissa Pelletier, a spokeswoman for Majewski’s campaign, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. In a statement to The AP, Majewski did not directly address the inconsistencies, saying his achievements were under attack.
“I am proud to have served my country,” Majewski said in the statement.
Inconsistencies in public accounts of Mr. Majewski’s military service prompted renewed scrutiny from a candidate who had already faced questions about his presence in the US Capitol on the day of the Jan. 6 siege and his sympathies for the movement. of QAnon conspiracy.
In response to questions from The Times, Rose M. Riley, an Air Force spokeswoman, said Thursday that there was no way for the military branch to verify whether Majewski served in Afghanistan during his time in Qatar. Air Force records showed Mr. Majewski received no accolades or medals that would normally have been associated with combat service in Afghanistan, though he acknowledged the list “may be incomplete or out of date because some require action by the member.” to send or validate.”
Majewski’s detailed role in military records contrasts sharply with his repeated claims on social media and right-wing podcasts that he was sent to Afghanistan.
In the immediate aftermath of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan last year, Majewski chided President Biden for the chaotic departure of forces there, saying in a cheep“I would gladly get dressed and go back to Afghanistan tonight and do my best to save the Americans who were left behind.”
He also mentioned Afghanistan during a February 2021 appearance on a podcast platform that has come under scrutiny for promoting conspiracy theories and misinformation.
More about the US Armed Forces
“I lost my grandmother when I was in Afghanistan and I didn’t get to see her funeral,” he said.
The head of a prominent veterans’ advocacy group criticized Majewski in an interview Wednesday, saying that embellishing his military record dishonored veterans who experienced combat.
“To me, that’s stolen value,” said Don Christensen, a retired Air Force colonel and president of Protect Our Defenders. “I have a lot of respect for the people who were actually shot, IEDs, injured and killed. I just think you owe them that you’re going to be honest in what you say and not try to equate your serve with theirs.”
Mr. Christensen, 61, served 23 years in the Air Force in a non-combat role. He said there was a clear distinction between Qatar and Afghanistan or Iraq.
How Times reporters cover politics. We trust our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members can vote, they are not allowed to endorse or campaign for political candidates or causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money or raising money for any political candidate or electoral cause.
“Qatar, for most people who have been to Iraq and Afghanistan, is where they go to relax and unwind,” he said, noting that the military maintains a “morale tent” in Qatar for service members to They will call their relatives.
“They were saying, oh my gosh, this is so amazing: the internet, a place to eat,” Christensen said of service members returning from combat in Qatar.
In May, Majewski emerged as the surprise winner of a Republican House primary in northern Ohio, where redistricting has emboldened the party in its bid to flip the seat held in November by Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur. .
Kaptur, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said in a statement Wednesday that Majewski had misled voters.
“The truth matters,” Kaptur said. “The idea that anyone, let alone a candidate for United States Congress, misleads voters about their combat service is an affront to all the men and women who have proudly worn the uniform of our great country.”
Mr. Majewski first gained attention in Ohio in 2020 by turning his lawn into a 19,000-square-foot “Trump 2020” billboard.
During his primary campaign earlier this year, he ran an ad featuring carrying an assault style rifle and saying, “I am willing to do whatever it takes to return this country to its former glory. And if I have to kick down doors, well, that’s what patriots do.”
Days after Majewski defeated two other Republicans in the primaries, Trump praised him at a rally in Pennsylvania.
A Trump spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment about Majewski’s military history.
Mr. Trump has targeted military records to attack a sitting member of Congress: Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut. He frequently highlights Mr. Blumenthal’s first campaign for Senate in 2010, when he was accused of misrepresenting his military service during the Vietnam War.
Mr. Blumenthal was a Marine Corps reservist but did not see combat. He said at the time that he never intended to create the impression that he was a combat veteran and apologized.