Rick Perry alone among presidential prospects in military service?
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry stresses his military service in a web ad noted by Politico on Feb. 27, 2015, describing himself as unique among milling presidential prospects. "At this particular point in time, looking at the field," Perry tells listeners around a table, "there’s only one individual that’s ever had the uniform of his country on—and that’s me."
The Politico story went on: "No other 2016 presidential contender — except for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), arguably a long-shot candidate — has served in the military." According to the Associated Press, Graham said in January 2015 he’d set up a committee to explore running for president.
Perry’s biographical entry, on his website, says: "Between 1972 and 1977, Perry served in the U.S. Air Force flying C-130 tactical airlift aircraft in Europe and the Middle East."
And when the then-governor of Texas ran for president in 2012, he was nearly the only candidate with a military record, The Washington Post said in an Aug. 16, 2011, news blog post; the only other candidate with military experience was Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, formerly a flight surgeon in the Air Force and the Air Force National Guard.
Paul has since left the House and the presidential hustings, seemingly giving buoyance to this new claim.
Prospects who have worn the uniform
Perry aides did not respond to our inquiry about how Perry reached his "only one individual" conclusion. So we don’t know why he overlooked Graham, whose time as an Air Force lawyer is mentioned in his Senate biographical entry. By email, Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop said Graham was a senior prosecutor at Rhein-Main Air Force Base in Germany from 1984-1988. He left active duty in 1989, but remains a colonel in the Air Force Reserves, Bishop said.
It's worth noting, too, that no candidate save Cruz has already declared for president, a factor leading us to root our review of Perry's declaration in a list of Americans believed to be considering a run. The list is kept up by Politics1.com, a website run by Florida attorney Ron Gunzburger that tracks candidates for federal office.
Besides Perry and Graham, we identified a couple of possible longshot Republican hopefuls who could be stumping with military experience:
--Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore was a U.S. Army counterintelligence agent in West Germany before entering the University of Virginia Law School, from which he graduated in 1977, according to a biographical entry posted by the National Governors Association. Gilmore’s entry in Who’s Who specifies he was an Army agent in West Germany from 1971-74. In December 2014, Gilmore declined to rule out a presidential bid in an interview with The Washington Post.
--Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, who like Perry spoke at the February 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference, spent time in the National Guard (signing up, he’s said, because he wanted to diminish his chances of dying in a rice paddy in Vietnam). In January 2015, The Boston Globe quoted Bolton, then about to venture to New Hampshire (home to the nation’s first-every-four-years presidential primaries), saying he was considering a run for president.
In the advertising video, Perry--who has said he’ll reveal if he’s running for president in May or June 2015--didn’t say if he was limiting his focus to Republicans. If not, he also overlooked former Democratic Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, who was a Marine in Vietnam before later serving as Secretary of the Navy.
Webb served in the Marine Corps from 1968 to 1972 as a second lieutenant and platoon commander in Vietnam, according to Who’s Who. In a video posted online as he launched his presidential exploratory committee in November 2014, Webb said: "I came from a family of citizen-soldiers" including his father, a 26-year pilot. "My brother, my son and I all became Marines. I fought on one of the Vietnam war’s harshest battlefields," Webb said, adding that he spent eight years on active duty.
We ultimately rated Perry's claim Half True. We can see Perry making a case for being the best-known possible Republican nominee with military experience. However, there are others who might bid who also were in the military.