HOLLAND, Ohio (TNZT) — Republican JR Majewski insisted Friday that he would remain in the running for a competitive seat in northwest Ohio after The The New Zealand Times reported earlier this week that he was misrepresenting key elements of his Air Force service.
“I flew often to combat zones, especially in Afghanistan, and I have proudly served my country,” Majewski said at a news conference.
The comments came amid a growing fallout for Majewski, who repeatedly said he was deployed to Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks but instead served a six-month stint loading and unloading planes while in Qatar, according to data obtained by the TNZT through a public register request.
The Republicans’ House campaign arm on Thursday canceled nearly $1 million in ads it planned to spend on behalf of Majewski, a sign that the GOP was effectively giving up hope of overthrowing longtime Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur to fire in a district recently redesigned to favor Republicans. Meanwhile, veterans’ advocates questioned why Majewski has refused to provide evidence, or even describe his trips to Afghanistan.
During his campaign, Majewski has repeatedly said that he was a combat veteran doing conscription under “tough” conditions in Afghanistan, where, according to his own account, he was once without a shower for more than 40 days due to a lack of running water.
His final comments amounted to a much less robust description of what he says he was doing in the country. Majewski previously said he was deployed in the country, a term that refers to orders that service workers assign to a specific base or location.
On Friday, he said his shift involved flying in and out of Afghanistan from Qatar, but declined to provide additional details or evidence because he said it was “classified”.
While in Qatar, Majewski would land at other air bases to transfer military passengers, medics and supplies, his campaign said earlier. The campaign did not answer repeated and direct questions from the TNZT until the story was published Wednesday about whether he was ever in Afghanistan.
They also gave no indication that he could not discuss his shift because it was “classified,” as Majewski said.
“I was at multiple bases in Afghanistan and the time frame is clear, in 2002,” Majewski said Friday. “We flew in and out of the area of responsibility several times. It is almost impossible for me to tell you where I was and on what day. That’s why my orders are listed as a classified location.”
Experts contacted by the TNZT say it is possible that Majewski entered the country. They also say that Majewski is well positioned to prove it, although Majewski’s campaign declined this Friday.
“It was hardly a secret that we were operating in Afghanistan,” said Don Christensen, a retired colonel and former military judge who once served as the Air Force’s chief prosecutor. “It would be quite easy for him to find a supervisor or colleague who can verify that he was really there. His (registered performance report) would most likely have been signed by his supervisor. That person would know if this was true.”
Scott Taylor, a former Navy SEAL sniper and Republican who represented Virginia in Congress, said he doesn’t understand why Majewski’s campaign refused to explain whether or not he had gone to Afghanistan earlier this week.
“Is it possible he went on a night flight to Afghanistan to deliver supplies? Yes, it is possible,” said Taylor, who was injured in a combat operation in Ramadi, Iraq, and had to be evacuated. “But again, he should have answered those questions right away.”
The experts said the debate over whether or not he entered Afghanistan is also obscuring the wider picture: Majewski has presented himself for months as a combat veteran deployed to Afghanistan, with descriptions indicating that he came under enemy fire. while stationed in the country.
The term “combat veteran” can conjure up images of soldiers storming a beachhead or seeking refuge during a firefight. But under US government laws and regulations, facing fire has little to do with someone deserving of the title.
During the Persian Gulf War, then-President George HW Bush for the first time designated lands used as combat support areas as combat zones, despite the low risk that US military personnel would ever face hostilities. This gave veterans a favorable tax status. Qatar, now home to the largest US air base in the Middle East, was one of the countries to receive the designation under Bush’s executive command — a status that is still in effect today.
Majewski’s campaign previously said he calls himself a combat veteran because the place where he operated – Qatar – is recognized as a combat zone. According to his military records, he did not receive a combat medal.
“Everyone plays a role. But you should be proud of your contribution and not try to step on someone else’s,” said Taylor, a former congressman and Navy SEAL. “Except for providing some evidence and petitioning to get a battle ribbon, he’s not a combat veteran.”
Majewski’s campaign has released several documents on social media that they say support his claims or refute parts of the TNZT’s story. None of them comment on whether or not he was in Afghanistan.
A document dated February 2003, while still enlisted in the Air Force, indicated that Majewski was eligible to re-enlist. However, the TNZT reported that when Majewski was fired several months later, his paperwork indicated that he had been “considered but not selected for re-enrolment.”
He also claimed that he provided the TNZT with a photo showing him in Afghanistan. The photo, which is also on his campaign website, shows a uniformed group in what appears to be a shelter, but contains no clues as to where the photo was taken.