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The Stars and Stripes - Politics Is New Battlefield For Veterans Of Iraq, Afghanistan

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Politics Is New Battlefield For Veterans Of Iraq, Afghanistan

Diverse group of candidates united by military service

Geoff Ziezulewicz, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Sunday, May 28, 2006

Courtesy of Patrick Murphy

Army Capt. Patrick Murphy saw firsthand what life on the ground is like in Iraq. Now back at home and largely in civilian mode, he is running for a congressional seat in Pennsylvania.

Courtesy of Van Taylor
Marine Capt. Van Taylor is running for Congress from Texas.

As a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, Capt. Patrick Murphy helped train Iraq's burgeoning Civil Defense Corps. Back home now in Pennsylvania, he's still proud of that job.

But there were other things that Murphy saw in Iraq that stuck with him and disturbed him. Things he wanted to change.

"We were absolutely shorthanded," said Murphy, a former West Point professor. "My Humvee didn't have doors. And I knew in the back of my mind what was going on. We weren't given enough to do the job, and there weren't enough boots on the ground."

Military protocol dictated that Murphy keep quiet and do his job while in the war zone. Now on Individual Ready Reserve status, Murphy is speaking out as the Democratic candidate for the 8th Congressional District, which covers the easternmost part of Pennsylvania, including parts of Philadelphia.

He has survived one test, defeating former Bucks County Commissioner Andy Warren in a Democratic primary on May 16. He will face freshman Mike Fitzgerald, whom he called a "rubber stamp for the Bush administration," on Nov. 7.

Murphy is one of about a dozen veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who are back home running for Congress, looking to serve their country in a different way. While their military service unites them, they are as diverse a group as any sampling of congressional candidates.

"I feel like I was a witness to our foreign policy, and I have to do something," Murphy said.

On his Web site, Murphy says he doesn't back an immediate pullout from Iraq, which "would almost surely lead to civil war and genocide."

He advocates a responsible exit strategy, with "benchmarks and a time line." He says President Bush has "neither the vision nor the courage to take bold steps to end the fighting."

Van Taylor knows about the chaos of Iraq as well. Marine Capt. Taylor entered Iraq at the early stages of the invasion and fought with the 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company.

Back in Texas, Taylor also is running for a congressional seat this year, but as a Republican. Taylor, a Waco businessman, faces eight-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards in November.

Taylor defeated attorney Tucker Anderson, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, in the March 7 primary.

A Marine who joined the reserves so he could continue serving his country while he attended Harvard Business School, Taylor said a political campaign bears many similarities to military service in combat.

"The word ‘campaign' applies in politics and in the military. In my experience, there's a reason why," Taylor said. "You've got a team, an objective; you're getting new information all the time and you're trying to figure it out. It can only help to send people to Washington, D.C., who have experience with the war on terror."


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