Politics & Government

New records show Air Force credited former lawmaker with time served in a war zone

Former state Rep. Graham Hunt, R-Orting, resigned in February after questions arose about his military record.
Former state Rep. Graham Hunt, R-Orting, resigned in February after questions arose about his military record. Legislative Support Services

A former lawmaker who resigned amid allegations he inflated his military record is now releasing documents that back up some of his claims of serving in combat.

The new records show that former state Rep. Graham Hunt, R-Orting, served in combat zones in the Middle East early in the Iraq War. They also clarify that he received certain military medals for his service there, although not the ones he initially claimed.

In releasing the documents to The News Tribune this week, Hunt said he was looking to clear his name.

“I am a combat veteran, and now I have the records to prove it,” Hunt said in a statement to The News Tribune.

Hunt, who served in the Air National Guard, had previously referred to himself as a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, but was unable to provide records supporting those claims.

The new records show Hunt received three military awards not previously listed on discharge papers he provided to the media.

I am a combat veteran, and now I have the records to prove it.

Graham Hunt, former state lawmaker who resigned after questions arose about his military service

One of them, the Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with Gold Border, is awarded specifically to service members who participated in combat operations, or who supported combat operations in a combat zone.

Another award, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, is awarded to service members who served in support of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, though such service can occur in a variety of locations.

The records Hunt provided still don’t prove his claims of being wounded in combat. Nor do they say definitively whether or not Hunt’s combat experience was serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, or another location in support of those wars.

In a phone interview last week, Hunt said he traveled into Iraq for several days during his documented time serving in Saudi Arabia. However, the records he provided don’t specify where he may have deployed on temporary missions.

Hunt said he received a corrected copy of his discharge papers June 1, after working for months to clarify his service record.

Hunt’s past came into question after The Seattle Times reported in January that he listed three medals on his legislative and campaign biographies that records didn’t show he received.

Those medals — the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal — still don’t appear on Hunt’s updated discharge papers.

Hunt said he received a corrected copy of his discharge papers June 1, after working for months to clarify his service record. A spokesman for a military personnel center confirmed the documents’ authenticity, as well as the date of their release.

Mike Dickerson, a spokesman for the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas, said it’s not uncommon for veterans’ records to omit medals they were entitled to receive. Veterans with incomplete records regularly contact the service to ask for updates and corrections, he said.

“Certainly when they contact us, we will review their records and check to make sure that all the awards and decorations they earned are updated,” Dickerson said.

Certainly when they contact us, we will review their records and check to make sure that all the awards and decorations they earned are updated.

Mike Dickerson, spokesman for the Air Force Personnel Center in Texas

Hunt also drew scrutiny due to an altered photo that appeared on his Facebook page in 2014, with accompanying text that falsely claimed the photo showed Hunt after a 2005 mortar attack. The photo actually showed two U.S. soldiers in Iraq in 2003.

Hunt has said a campaign volunteer posted the photo in his name, but he declined to name the person responsible.

In a phone interview last week, Hunt said resigning from the Legislature in February was a mistake, and that he should have resisted pressure to step down until he could gather his missing service records.

He said he has been unable to get in contact with people he served with overseas who might be able to confirm his accounts of being wounded. He also declined to sign a release form that would enable The News Tribune to request his medical records from the military.

Hunt instead provided a document that indicates he is receiving disability payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs, but it doesn’t specify whether he is receiving those payments for combat wounds or for other chronic ailments that are unrelated.

Since his resignation from the Legislature, Hunt has remained involved in politics. He recently was chosen to serve as one of Washington’s 44 delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where he will sit on the convention’s Rules Committee.

Hunt said by releasing more of his service records now, he’s said he’s simply following through on his earlier promise to share documents as they became available.

“I’m not doing this because I plan on running for any particular office,” Hunt said.

“I don’t know what my plans are.”

Staff writer Adam Ashton contributed to this report.

Melissa Santos: 360-357-0209, @melissasantos1

  Comments