Don Womack, a former Marine and Vietnam War veteran, speaks during an event calling out U.S. Senate candidate from Arizona Blake Masters for his comments on the military. Standing behind him are other Tucson-area veterans. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Democratic Party
A group of Tucson veterans fired back at Blake Masters’ incendiary comments on the military this week, saying he isn’t a fit representative for the more than half a million veterans in the state.
“A man like Blake Masters, who has no respect for our service – he has no business representing us anywhere, let alone at the U.S. Senate,” said Air Force veteran Sylvia Gonzalez Andersh, during a press event Thursday afternoon organized by the Arizona Democratic Party.
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Andersh is a member of #WeAreCommonDefense, a progressive veterans group, and was part of a group of five veterans who resigned from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s veterans advisory council in protest last year.
The event on Thursday was small, with only seven veterans and a few reporters in attendance.
During the event Andersh pointed to recently revealed emails Masters wrote about 9/11, and the ensuing Iraq war as proof that he lacks respect for service members. The emails were sent while Masters was in college, and in them he defended the right to disseminate conspiracy theories about 9/11 and questioned the “story we’ve been told” about the tragic event.
“Thousands of Americans lost their lives on that horrible day. And many, too many, of my fellow men and women paid the ultimate price in the conflicts that followed. With his words, Blake Masters dishonors their service and he dishonors their memory,” Andersh said, her voice breaking.
The Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate hasn’t confined his inflammatory remarks to college emails, though. Master has several times called for a wholesale firing of military leaders since he began campaigning last year. In November, Masters released a campaign video on Twitter calling military leaders “incompetent” and “woke corporate bozos”.
Don Womack, a former Marine and Vietnam War veteran, said he was in disbelief after hearing the comments. They amount to insults against the rank and file, Womack said, and are especially offensive given Masters himself has never served.
“At the end of the day, what Masters has said is nothing short of disgraceful. His comments are nothing short of a personal attack on me and every other veteran and military family who has sacrificed to serve our country,” he said.
For Sue Ritz, a retired National Guard Master Sergeant with 24 years of service under her belt, the contrast between Masters and the previous men who held the seat he’s vying for is stark. Masters is running against incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly, who flew combat missions in the Gulf War, to fill an office previously held by the late Sen. John McCain, who was a naval officer and a prisoner of war for five years during the Vietnam War.
“Listening to a guy like Blake Masters insult our military while running against Mark Kelly, a Navy combat pilot, for the seat once occupied by the great Senator John McCain – well that’s an insult to everyone,” she said.
Ritz allowed that criticism of the military isn’t unwelcome in a country that values the First Amendment right to free speech, but reiterated that Masters, with his lack of a service record and disrespectful comments, isn’t the one to do it. If he really wants to effect change, Ritz said, he should join up.
“He’s still young enough to join. If he’s got so many things he’s going to do to change the military – he’s 35 years old, there’s a recruiting station I can take him to right now and he can join the Army National Guard today,” she said.
Masters’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
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