Former top military officials, vets, defend Sen. Tom Cotton’s record against Salon hit piece

A number of veterans and former top military officials have come to the defense of Sen. Tom Cotton after the Arkansas Republican’s Army record was attacked by a left-wing website.

Over the weekend, Salon claimed that when Cotton began his political career with a 2012 congressional bid “he felt compelled to repeatedly falsify that honorable military record” by “claiming to have been ‘a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan,’ and, in a campaign ad, to have ‘volunteered to be an Army Ranger.’”

“In reality, Cotton was never part of the 75th Ranger Regiment, the elite unit that plans and conducts joint special military operations as part of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command,” the outlet noted further.

“Rather, Cotton attended the Ranger School, a two-month-long, small-unit tactical infantry course that literally anyone in the military is eligible to attend. Soldiers who complete the course earn the right to wear the Ranger tab — a small arch that reads ‘Ranger’ — but in the eyes of the military, that does not make them an actual Army Ranger,” Salon’s piece continued.

Former Army Ranger Rep. Jason Crow, a far-left Democrat from Colorado who has been repeatedly accused of lying, added his voice, tweeting: “Hey @SenTomCotton, unless you wore one of these berets you shouldn’t be calling yourself a Ranger. Truth matters.”

But Cotton, a Harvard-educated lawyer who, like Crow, served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and also was awarded a Bronze Star, was defended by several former top military officials and combat vets following the publication of the hit piece.

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Merritt, once a regimental sergeant major for the 75th Ranger Battalion, said in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the assault on Cotton and his military record was “absurd.” The local paper went on to note that no one else has ever stepped up to criticize Cotton’s military service, let alone accuse him of fabricating parts of it.

“It’s unfair. It’s almost slanderous,” Merritt said. “He’s 100 percent a Ranger. … He will always be a Ranger. An attack on him is an attack on every veteran who has served honorably.”

In addition, retired Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, who once headed U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOC), blasted Crow over his statement.

“First, wear your beret correctly. Second, you are a Congressman now, act like it. This is a dumb debate (feel pretty qualified to say that). Need you to focus on more important things for the good of the nation. You and @SenTomCotton get together and work like ‘Ranger buddies.’”

Also, retired U.S. Army Col. Kurt Schlichter slammed Crow as well.

“This is a blue falcon move and it’s embarrassing. What the hell is wrong with you?” Schlichter tweeted, in reference to a slang term military personnel use to describe someone who attempts to drag others down.

Decorated combat vet Sean Parnell also ripped Crow.

“This is a BS line of attack on @SenTomCotton. If your (sic) earn your tab & proudly wear the words RANGER on your shoulder, you’re a RANGER. There are 2 ways to qualify for the Ranger Hall of Fame. 1) serve in a Ranger unit in combat Or 2) graduate from Ranger school. The end,” he wrote.

Cotton also defended himself and his record in a subsequent appearance on Fox News.

“Were you straightforward with voters about your military service?” host Bret Baier asked on Monday. “You’re a decorated veteran, but there’s a story — a couple of stories popping up about you saying that you were an Army Ranger.”

“Yes, thanks, Bret. I graduated from the Ranger school,” Cotton said. “I wore the Ranger Tab in combat with 101st Airborne in Iraq. This is not about my military record; this is about my politics.”

“Ranger regiment legends like General Scottie Miller or General Craig Nixon have used the term to describe both alumni of the Ranger Regiment and graduates of the ranger school, as did the secretary of Army, as did most of my buddies in the Army, as did most of the liberal media until a conservative veteran was using the term that way,” he added. “But if some people disagree, that’s fine. I respect their views. But what’s most important, I respect the service of all rangers, and indeed, all soldiers who volunteered to serve our country.”

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Jon Dougherty

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