By Kevin Landrigan
26 Aug 2018
Maura Sullivan was a Marine captain in Iraq.
With a Sept. 11 primary fast approaching, two female congressional candidates are defending their military service after they were criticized for using the word “combat” in their political campaigns.
Rochester City Attorney and 1st District Democratic candidate Terence O’Rourke of Alton, New Hampshire, lit the first fuse after accusing primary rival Maura Sullivan of Portsmouth of lying to inflate her service record as a Marine captain in Iraq.
“It is sad and disgraceful that Ms. Sullivan would tarnish the memory of brave Marines to cover up her exaggerations about her service. Words have meaning and she was the one who chose to say she fought in Iraq when she did no such thing,” O’Rourke said. “She is the one who persisted in her lies after being called out. She is the one who chooses to question the integrity of others when she clearly has none herself.”
Sullivan countered that it’s O’Rourke who’s the disgrace and that his accusations reveal a “sexist and badly outdated” attitude toward women serving in combat zones.
“This attack comes from someone who clearly doesn’t understand or value the role of women in the military, and it displays an appalling level of ignorance and disrespect toward both the women and the men with whom I served, and the families of many who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Sullivan responded. “I’ve never gone around telling war stories or making myself out to be a hero. In fact, among the veterans community, it’s not respected to boast about your valor, especially to demean the service of others.”
Over in New Hampshire’s 2nd District, some veterans charge that retired Navy nurse and GOP candidate Lynne Blankenbeker of Concord is guilty of her own resume manipulation — pointing to her campaign signs that read “combat proven.”
State Rep. Sean Morrison, R-Hampton, formed the Veterans Caucus in the New Hampshire Legislature after joining the Army National Guard at 30 and making combat deployments to Iraq.
“The ‘combat proven’ thing seemed to me to be close to stolen valor,” said Morrison, who is supporting state Rep. and Air Force veteran Steve Negron of Nashua in the GOP primary.
“That means you were in direct combat with the enemy and you acted appropriately. I don’t think anyone should be separating and holding themselves up on a pedestal as veterans.”
A clearly upset Blankenbeker said Friday that Morrison and others who share his views should be “ashamed of themselves.”
“I was a combat nurse in a combat hospital in a combat zone caring for combat casualties while the hospital took on an average of 18 mortar attacks in a given day,” Blankenbeker said of her time in Afghanistan’s violent Kandahar province during 2010-11.