JACKSON (AP) – The head of Mississippi’s Democratic Party says he has advised the party’s nominee to pull out of the 1st District congressional race because exaggeration of his military service – calling himself a “Green Beret veteran of Desert Storm” when he was a food service worker at Fort Bragg during the 1991 campaign in Iraq – has cost him support.
Rickey Cole said he told Ron Dickey on Tuesday that it would be in his best interest to withdraw.
“I don’t see how he can sustain his family and be the fulltime candidate he needs to be to be able to change the discussion back to where he wanted it on veterans’ issues and mental health issues and not these others that have emerged because of his embellishments,” Cole said.
Dickey said he’s staying in the race against incumbent Republican Alan Nunnelee and two other candidates.
“Prior to all of these issues happening, I took quite a bit of time to think about running for the office. … I haven’t done anything illegal to keep me from continuing to run,” he said.
Dickey was a food service worker for the 3rd Special Forces Group when workers such as cooks and mechanics could wear the beret of the unit they supported. It was during Desert Storm, he has written on a Facebook page that he opened July 24, acknowledging that he did not go through the Army’s Special Forces qualification course.
Dickey came under fire from the Special Forces community after a post on GuardianOfValor.com profiled him and his earlier statements.
He has since removed the Facebook page where the phrase was used.
“I don’t see how it serves the interests of the Democratic Party to be supportive of a candidate that has been so blatantly false in his representations of his military record,” Cole said. “I’m just as embarrassed as I can be about this. That’s one of the many reasons I recommended that he ought to withdraw.”
However, he said, winning the Democratic primary made Dickey the party’s candidate. “We don’t have any mechanism to say he’s not our nominee. The law says he got our nomination, he’ll be on the ballot in November,” Cole said.
Dickey has said that his claims on the Internet, in news articles and on social media of being a Green Beret were generalized because most civilians wouldn’t understand the difference between support personnel and those who have passed Special Forces qualifying courses. He said his platform will continue to focus on veterans’ rights.
“I do apologize if I offended anyone, but to be crystal clear, the only problem with my bio is how it came out, not only to the constituents in Mississippi, but also to the Special Forces community,” Dickey said. “No matter how many times I apologize, it can never be enough. I’m sorry. But as long as I know who I am and as long as I can continue this fight, I will fight for vets anywhere.”
Dickey said he stands by his military service.
“I could have had to drop anything in my hand inside or outside a dining facility and defend my country … and I always had my M-16 locked and loaded,” Dickey said.
Special Forces veterans across the country have written letters and posts and made statements against Dickey’s claims, and have researched his past thoroughly. This week, they sent the Democratic Party a statement they wanted Dickey to issue word for word. He said the apology on his Facebook page should stand.
On that page, he wrote, “I did not intend to misrepresent my time in the military. I was given the Good Conduct medal and was honorably discharged. I respectfully apologize to any and all I have offended.”
He said Friday, “Whoever is asking me for another apology and asking me to withdraw from the race, they’re just trying to keep this thing going. If you have to craft an apology for me to give, then that didn’t come from my heart.”