A group of Michigan veterans is urging a Democratic congressional candidate to issue an apology for donning part of a U.S. Army-issued uniform during a Veterans Day event, despite never having served in the military.
Fox News Digital has obtained a letter, endorsed by 28 veterans, directed at former Michigan state Sen. Curtis Hertel, who is the probable Democratic nominee for Michigan’s competitive 7th Congressional District. The letter accuses Hertel of conveying a false impression of military service and engaging in an act of “stolen valor” by wearing the jacket.
The letter specifically addresses Hertel’s participation in a Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony at the Michigan Veterans Memorial in Lansing on Nov. 11. During the event, Hertel spoke while wearing a now-retired U.S. Army-issued physical fitness jacket, even though he was not listed in the event’s programming.
“We, the undersigned veterans of U.S. military service, write to you today to express our deep concern over your conscious decision to wear an official U.S. Army-issued uniform while speaking at a Veterans Day event last month in Lansing, despite not having served in the Army or any other branch of the U.S. military,” the letter stated.
The veterans respectfully request a public apology to all American veterans and a pledge to refrain from such actions in the future.
The letter contends that Hertel failed to clarify to those in attendance that he did not serve in the military. It points out that although the jacket is a retired uniform and no longer in use by the Army, it is linked to the Global War on Terror era, a period when Hertel was eligible to serve but did not.
Additionally, the letter notes that Hertel, who was not issued the jacket by the Army, must have acquired it from someone who was, indicating his awareness of its status as an official uniform.
U.S. Army regulations state that the physical fitness uniform is not deemed appropriate for certain functions, such as memorial services. Hertel’s campaign argues that the now-retired jacket is available for public purchase and highlights his advocacy for veterans’ issues during his tenure as a state senator.
In response, Hertel explained that the jacket was a gift from his brother-in-law, an Army major about to retire. Hertel wore it on Veterans Day to honor his family members who served.
Vietnam veteran Jack Devine defended Hertel, stating that he has always been a relentless advocate for veterans. Hertel’s campaign pointed to the public availability of the jacket and emphasized his record on veterans’ issues, including sponsoring bills for a new veterans’ cemetery, facilitating overseas voting for Michigan’s service members, and supporting property tax exemptions for disabled veterans’ spouses.
The 7th Congressional District race in Michigan is expected to be closely watched in 2024 as Republicans aim to expand their narrow House majority, and Democrats seek to flip the chamber. The seat, currently held by Democrat Rep. Elissa Slotkin, is being contested by Hertel and former Republican state Sen. Tom Barrett, a U.S. Army veteran who lost to Slotkin in the 2022 election.