Lawmaker's Gulf War claims, records don't match
Rhode Island State Rep. Daniel Gordon displays records of his military service at his home in Portsmouth, R.I., Sept. 21, 2011. / AP Photo/David Klepper
PROVIDENCE, R.I. Military service records for a Rhode Island lawmaker who has blamed a string of legal troubles on combat stress he suffered in the 1991 Gulf War indicate he never served in the Middle East.
State Rep. Daniel Gordon's Marine Corps records, obtained by The Associated Press, list him as an aircraft technician who served from 1987 to 1991 in the U.S. and Japan. Gordon has said his leg was injured by shrapnel outside Baghdad.
Gordon's records also list no Purple Heart award for an injury.
The Portsmouth Republican is fighting calls for his resignation following his arrest on charges stemming from a 2008 police chase in Massachusetts. The arrest exposed past legal problems, including a four-month sentence in 1999 for assault, an attempted murder charge dismissed in 2004 and a long list of traffic offenses in Massachusetts.
Gordon has said his problems sprang from alcohol abuse relating to post-traumatic stress from his service.
On Friday, Gordon insisted that his service record is incomplete. He said he couldn't provide evidence of his time in Iraq because many of his photos and keepsakes from his service were destroyed in a house fire. Gordon said he couldn't recall precisely when the fire happened, but said he was living in Fall River, Mass., at the time.
"I'm disappointed that the DOD didn't provide you with a full and accurate record," he told the AP on Friday. "I don't know what else to tell you."
Records obtained from the Marine Corps show Gordon joined the Marines on June 4, 1987, and served at bases in South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington and California, and spent six months with an aviation unit at a Marine Corps air station in Japan.
The records show no deployments to the Middle East. Maj. Shawn Haney, a public affairs officer with the Marines, said Gordon's file would indicate any time spent in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain or Iraq during the Gulf War.
Gordon told reporters this week that his right leg was struck by shrapnel "eight miles south of Baghdad" in February 1991. He said his unit was based in Bahrain.
"I can assure you, I was there," he said Wednesday.
Gordon's record lists two awards, one for his time stationed in Japan. The other, the National Defense Service Medal, was given to all personnel on active duty at the time of the Gulf War, regardless of where they served.
Gordon said he received the Southwest Asia Service Medal, an award given to members of the armed services deployed to the Middle East for the Gulf War. The award is not listed in his file. Asked if he would present the medal publicly, Gordon said it wouldn't do any good because they are easily found at pawn shops.
Gordon said he doesn't know why he didn't receive a Purple Heart for his injury, but he said he never requested the award out of a sense of humility. He said he's never claimed to have earned one.
Mackubin Thomas Owens, a retired Marine and professor at the Naval War College in Newport, said a combat injury involving a shrapnel wound would generally qualify for a Purple Heart. He said the Purple Heart is typically given to any service member wounded in a war zone, unless the injury was caused by an accident or friendly fire.
Purple Heart awards are given to service members injured caused by "enemy action or in action against the enemy," according to guidelines listed on the Department of Defense's website.
This week, Gordon showed The Associated Press paperwork from the Department of Veterans Affairs showing he was eligible for a disability payment of $123 a month for his injury. The paperwork showed that Gordon was honorably discharged in 1991.
Calls for Gordon's resignation have come from House Speaker Gordon Fox, D-Providence, and House Minority Leader Brian Newberry, R-North Smithfield, as well as the state Republican and Democratic parties.
Gordon is one of three Rhode Island lawmakers who have been arrested this year.
Democratic Rep. Leo Medina, of Providence, was arrested earlier this month for allegedly pocketing proceeds from a life insurance policy on a friend's dead daughter. Medina maintains his innocence.
Last spring, Republican Rep. Robert Watson, of East Greenwich, was charged with drug possession and DUI in Connecticut. Watson has denied allegations by police that he had consumed cocaine and said he possessed marijuana to treat pancreatitis but hadn't smoked that day.
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