The recent controversy over whether a Marine veteran running for office in Minnesota had actually seen action highlights how ambiguous the phrase “combat veteran” can become when both military members and veterans are continually debating which combat experience counts and which does not.
Southwest of Minneapolis-Saint Paul, in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District, Tyler A. Kistner is the Republican candidate. According to Marine Corps Manpower & Reserve Affairs, he was in active service as a Marine infantry officer first, and later as a special operations officer, from January 2011 to October 2019. Kistner had previously spent time at sea and had deployed to Tunisia as part of Operation Inherent Resolve from September 2017 to April 2018. According to Kuzminski, the Department of Veterans Affairs defines combat veterans as service members who have ever been paid for hostile fire or impending danger, have won a combat service medal, or have military records proving they served in a combat zone. Politicians who boast about their own military service, according to Kuzminski, exacerbate the argument about who qualifies as a combat veteran and who doesn’t.