Questions about Republican U.S. Rep. Gary Miller’s service in the Army during the Vietnam War have been quietly hovering in the campaign trenches recently. On Monday, Harper’s Magazine brought the issue out into the open with this story on his very brief military career.
For years, Miller’s biography in congressional publications — like Congressional Quarterly and Project Vote Smart — has stated that he served in the Army from 1967 to 1968.
That’s way off.
After being confronted by Harper’s Ken Silverstein, Miller’s press secretary clarified his military record in an email, stating “Congressman Miller volunteered to the U.S. Army and was Honorably Discharged due to medical reasons within a matter of months.”
Well, not quite “months.”
According to one document detailing Miller’s service time obtained by Voice of OC, Miller, whose district includes swaths of Riverside and Orange counties, was in the military a total of seven weeks, from Sept. 7, 1967, to Oct. 30, 1967.
In Silverstein’s story, Miller’s press spokeswoman said his official congressional biography has always maintained he served in 1967. She said the congressman can’t control what other groups use as biographical information.
Again, not quite.
As noted by Silverstein, organizations like Congressional Quarterly and Project Vote Smart typically get their biographical information directly from elected officials.
Apparently, after Silverstein’s story ran on Monday, Miller’s staff contacted Congress.org — which is now published by the CQ-Roll Call Group — and requested a change in his biography.
But the biography still says 1967 — not Sept. 7 to Oct. 30, 1967.
Then there is the obvious question: What kind of medical condition would get you out of military service in the midst of the Vietnam War?
Ray Parrish, who works as a counselor in Chicago with the non-profit Vietnam Veterans Against the War and has dealt with veterans issues for decades, said that on average one out of six recruits doesn’t make it through the first six months of training.
That rate in the late ’60s was a little lower, Parrish said. He added, “They were overlooking quite a lot back then.”
There was a 10 percent drop-out rate in companies in the 1960s, he said, noting “most of that was preexisting medical problems that didn’t’ get bad until the person was under stress … like asthma.”
The other major problem Parrish recalled was “bad backs.”
And finally, “There were behavior problems that were hidden until the recruit had to share a room with somebody,” Parrish said.
Parrish noted that those types of issues are usually noted on a service member’s discharge documents.
Except finding documentation on Miller’s time in the military is difficult. Even with Social Security numbers, dates and places of entry and separation, workers at the National Archives say they can’t find Miller’s records.
That’s already triggering calls from Phil Liberatore, Miller’s opponent in the June 8 primary, for Miller to release his military records.
The issue of candidates’ military service during campaigns comes up often, such as with the recent revelations about the New York Senate campaign of Richard Blumenthal, who was caught exaggerating his Vietnam experience (he didn’t have one.)
This is the first time Miller’s military service has been seriously questioned, but it is not the first time Miller has faced serious questions.
He’s been involved in some hinky land transactions in his district, and the congressional watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has repeatedly listed Miller as among the most corrupt members of Congress.
We made two separate calls today to speak with Miller’s press secretary, Jennifer Baker, about his military service but got no reply. We’ll keep trying and will fill you in as we hear more. …