State lawmaker from Orting alters bio after questions raised about war record

SEATTLE — A Washington state lawmaker who served in the Arizona Air National Guard has altered his official online biography after a newspaper raised questions about medals he claimed to have won.

Until recently, Republican Rep. Graham Hunt, of Orting, listed three medals that a military personnel center has no record of him receiving, The Seattle Times reported. A military spokeswoman cautioned that the center’s records are sometimes incomplete, but Hunt nevertheless deleted references to the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.

He also deleted a reference to having been a “combat veteran” of Iraq and Afghanistan. Hunt has described himself as having been “wounded in combat” but grows vague when asked for details. He said he was knocked down by explosions but cannot remember where. He also says he cannot remember the names of units he deployed with to Iraq and Afghanistan, and he declined to elaborate on service-related injuries for which he said he is receiving disability benefits.

Hunt, 36, heads U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign in the state. He told the newspaper he did not mean to list medals he had not received and took down the references until he could find documentation, which he said might be lost in boxes or at a relative’s house. He agreed he had made a mistake in listing the Iraq medal — mixing it up with a similarly named award he did earn. He said he never intended to mislead anyone about his military record.

“Honestly, I don’t even care to list any honors or awards I have received, because frankly I don’t think they are that important to the public in the first place,” he said.

Hunt said he’s frustrated he has been unable to locate documents proving he was awarded the Afghanistan medal and the commendation medal, but he declined requests from The Seattle Times to sign a waiver allowing fuller disclosure of his military records, including a complete copy of his discharge papers.

Whether he earned the medals aren’t the only questions to have been raised about his military record. In May 2014, a dramatic Iraq war photo was posted to his Facebook page, showing two kneeling U.S. soldiers, one man consoling the other.

The post said, “This picture of me was taken after a mortar attack in 2005,” and added: “Background has been modified, but I think combat camera captured the moment pretty well. I surely have not forgotten that moment.”

But Hunt wasn’t in the picture, which was a doctored version of a 2003 Associated Press photograph of two military policemen from Ohio. The photo was later removed from his account.

Hunt told the newspaper a campaign volunteer had posted it without his knowledge.

Military records show Hunt served in the Air National Guard from 1998 to 2005, assigned to Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base in Phoenix, according to Lt. Col. Belinda Petersen, a spokeswoman with the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Colorado. After 2005, Hunt was a nonparticipating reservist until 2010, when he separated from the military.

Hunt achieved the rank of staff sergeant. His awards include a small-arms marksmanship ribbon, the Air Force Expeditionary Medal and the Air Force Achievement Medal, according to the personnel center. The achievement medal was earned while Hunt was at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia in late 2002 and early 2003 as part of the 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing, according to a copy of the medal citation supplied by Hunt.

But the Air Reserve Personnel Center said Hunt’s service record does not indicate he earned the Air Force Commendation Medal — a more prestigious award — or the Iraq or Afghanistan Campaign medals authorized for serving in the U.S. war in those countries.

Maj. Heather Newcomb, public-affairs director for the personnel center, said while medals and citations are normally a part of a veteran’s service records, they are not always up to date if the veteran did not submit required paperwork.

Hunt’s new online bio says he served “tours of duty in several countries, including multiple tours to the Middle East.”

He was appointed to the Legislature in January 2014 to represent the 2nd Legislative District of south Pierce and Thurston counties. He won election to a full term in November 2014 and is up for re-election this fall.

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