Democratic Senate candidate Amy McGrath compared supporting her campaign to serving in uniform, prompting condemnation from a group of Kentucky veterans.
During an August 29 virtual event, McGrath told members of her veterans coalition that by "helping this campaign," they were "doing as much" to help the country as when they "wore the uniform."
"What you are doing in helping this campaign, you are literally helping your country," McGrath said. "I would say you are doing as much, right now, in being part of this effort, as you were when you wore the uniform."
Retired master sergeant George Kaelin, a 26-year Air Force veteran, called the comparison "degrading."
"It irritates me because there's nothing that compares to serving in the military," Kaelin told the Washington Free Beacon. "I've been next to people with their legs blown off. I've had friends go out on missions and not come back. I've been shot at. There are people trying to kill you. It's not comparable at all."
McGrath is a veteran herself, having served 20 years in the Marine Corps. Kaelin said that while "everybody has their own opinion" and he "appreciate[s] the fact that she served," McGrath "shouldn't take her military experience and say that this election is just as important."
"Just don't say things like that. It's degrading to everybody that's ever been in the military, people who have lost friends in the military, people who have lost limbs in the military," Kaelin said. "It's degrading to me."
Combat veteran Matthew Wynn agreed, telling the Free Beacon that McGrath's comments were a "slap in the face to me and my fellow brothers and sisters."
"By no means is it remotely close to signing your name on the line and saying, ‘Hey, I'm willing to give my life for this country, in defense of our Constitution, in defense of the people who live here, and in defense of humanity,'" Wynn said. "For somebody to say—and I don't care who it is—that you can put my campaign down as being as important as what you did in uniform? No. That doesn't cut it."
Army veteran Brian Edwards also expressed appreciation for McGrath's military service but argued that she "doesn't need to go that route with her comments."
"If you're serving the country now, it's voluntary. You raised your right hand and you swore an oath to defend the Constitution," Edwards told the Free Beacon. "For her to say an election is like when we wore our uniform? It's nothing like that."
This is not the first time McGrath has been criticized by veterans during her bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.). The Democrat faced an immediate rebuke from the Greenup County War Memorial after holding a political event at the site without seeking approval.
"Political rallies are not allowed, and have never been allowed. We did not have prior knowledge of her coming or we would have told her prior to arrival that she could not hold a political rally at the memorial," memorial staff said in a Facebook post issued just hours after McGrath's August 12 event.
The McGrath campaign did not respond to a request for comment.