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by Debra Mullins

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) has worked for the World Bank and the State Department as well as served as a member of the House of Representatives for five terms

(Jun. 3, 2010) — On the heels of Connecticut’s Senatorial candidate and current Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s admission that he “misspoke” a few times about his service during the Vietnam War era, another Senatorial candidate is now in the hot seat over misrepresenting his military service. This time it is U.S. Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL). Kirk is currently the Republican nominee for Mr. Obama’s former Senate seat and will face State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias in the November General Election.

On May 29, 2010, The Washington Post reported that Rep. Kirk, who is currently a Naval Reserve Commander and Intelligence Officer, admitted that he misrepresented his award as the U.S. Navy Reserves’ “Intelligence Officer of the Year” for his combat service during the Kosovo conflict.

Kirk, a five-term Congressman representing Illinois’s 10th Congressional District, had claimed he was the recipient of this award in his campaign literature and even during a 2002 Congressional hearing. According to an editorial published in The Chicago Tribune, “he has made that claim for more than a decade — in speeches, in campaign materials submitted to the Tribune, other news organizations, and in the biography on his Web site.”

Until last Thursday, Kirk’s Senatorial campaign and Congressional office websites included the award in his biography. Kirk issued a press release on May 27, 2010 stating his biography “misidentified” his award.

In an interview with Fox News, Kirk was asked if he received a tip that The Post story was about to break, to which he replied, “We didn’t.” A Naval spokesperson, however, confirmed that the Navy informed Kirk that it was about to release information about him to the media, including The Washington Post. Both websites were scrubbed and updated the same day.

During the Kosovo conflict, Kirk was actually stationed at the Aviano Air Force Base located in Aviano, Italy. The unit he commanded received the VADM Rufus Taylor Intelligence Unit of the Year in 1999 for its outstanding service in support of Operation Allied Force. Kirk was also nominated for and received the Marine Corps and Navy Medal of Commendation for his service in Italy.

In a statement issued by Kirk’s former commander in Italy, retired Captain Clay Fearnow said:

Mark Kirk served under my command in Aviano, Italy, during Operation Allied Force – the Kosovo campaign. For his exceptional service as the lead intelligence officer of a combat intelligence action team – the largest EA-6B intelligence shop in the history of naval aviation, which he assembled – I nominated then Lieutenant Commander Kirk for a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Rufus L. Taylor Intelligence Award. He received both.

When I nominated Mark for the Rufus Taylor award I thought it was more specific to Mark and not his team. But the reality is, there would have been no team without Mark Kirk’s leadership and there certainly would have been no award. I can certainly understand why he would have referred to this award over the years as intelligence officer of the year – it’s how I viewed the award.  And in actuality, the two awards in question are of equal stature and significance.

Kirk’s campaign site has since been corrected to read: “Kirk was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his Kosovo service in 1999. The U.S. Navy and National Military Intelligence Association named Kirk’s team the VADM Rufus Taylor Intelligence Unit of the Year for outstanding service during Operation Allied Force.”

This is not the first incident in which Kirk appears to have misrepresented his service. His Congressional campaign website previously stated that he was the only member of Congress to serve stateside “during” Operation Iraqi Freedom while his Congressional office website stated he was the only member of Congress to serve “in” Operation Iraqi Freedom. His campaign website has since been corrected to read that Commander Kirk “has served during conflicts with Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, and Bosnia.” His Congressional office website has been similarly updated.

Terry Welsh, a blogger at Nitpicker, is a veteran of the Afghanistan War who has been tracking Kirk’s misrepresentations since 2005.  Welsh stated that he notified Rep. Kirk’s office of the “in” Operation Iraqi Freedom vs. the “during” discrepancy. Welsh said it took over 50 days for his Congressional office to amend his website.

Both Kirk’s Congressional and campaign websites also state that he is the first House member to serve in imminent danger in Afghanistan during deployments in 2008 and 2009. Commander Kirk was not actually deployed, but rather completed his annual minimum two weeks of required reservist active duty for a total of 34 days served in Afghanistan.

Another embellishment includes: “I command the war room of the Pentagon.” While on reserve duty, Kirk has been stationed at the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon. The person who runs that war room is usually a general with one or two stars.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) recently proposed an amendment to the Stolen Valor Act after which Senatorial candidate Blumenthal admitted that he had incorrectly said that he served in the Marines “in” Vietnam rather than “during” the Vietnam War. The bill would make such misstatements punishable by up to six months in jail. A spokesperson from Senator Hatch’s office stated that the bill, if passed, would not likely apply to Rep. Kirk’s misstatements.

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