The group gathered in downtown Smyrna on Tuesday morning for a news conference. They say Loudermilk, a former state senator from Bartow County, has repeatedly implied he was a pilot during his time in the Air Force, when in fact he was a communications specialist.
“Serving one’s nation or representing those who serve is a sacred trust and honored tradition in America, not to be embellished or used to manipulate or mislead the public for personal gain,” Mrozinski said during the conference. “We cannot afford to send representatives to Washington D.C. with a cloud hanging over their heads.”
Loudermilk is in a Republican runoff against former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, of Smyrna, which will be decided July 22. Because no Democrat registered to run, the winner is expected to win the seat for 2015 and 2016. The 11th Congressional District includes all of Bartow and Cherokee counties, a large swath of Cobb and a small section of Fulton County.
Mrozinski also ran for the seat, but finished far behind the leaders and has endorsed Barr.
Loudermilk, through his spokesman Dan McLagan, fired back against the accusations.
“Where is Bob Barr’s discharge form?” McLagan said. “It’s sad Bob, who never served in uniform, is attacking Barry’s 20 years of military service.”
McLagan said Loudermilk was in meetings in Washington on Tuesday and was not available for an interview.
Contrasting the claims of embellishment, McLagan said Loudermilk has downplayed his service while campaigning, and said Barr is behind the accusations.
“Barr is hiding behind men in uniform,” he said. “This is what you do when you’re 20 points down in the polls. It’s just sad.”
The Loudermilk camp also released a resume detailing his military service and his honorable discharge from active duty. Loudermilk has a private pilot’s license, which is what his camp said he referred to during the forums.
Barr insists he wasn’t behind the press conference, saying several veterans have approached him with concerns about Loudermilk exaggerating his service record.
He said Loudermilk is playing politics.
“They see me behind every criticism that’s raised,” Barr said. “That’s just typical Washington politics.”
In a letter to the editor that ran in Friday’s MDJ, retired aviator Bill Stanley outlined his issues with Loudermilk.
“Although I’m a retired military member who served two tours in Vietnam as an Army aviator, I have never been one to think less of a man who did not serve in combat ... or even in the military service,” Stanley wrote. “What puzzles me is why some who have not served in combat, or have served in less ‘glamorous’ positions in the military, tend to embellish their service.”
Stanley took issue with statements Loudermilk made during a June 14 debate at Kennesaw State University. These included, “I’ll commit to you as someone who knows the importance of national defense. I’ve lived in that arena. I worked in that arena, and as an aviator — as a pilot — I know the value and the importance that our aerospace and our airpower has. We must do everything in our ability to keep (Dobbins Air Reserve Base) operating and open.”
“Anyone witnessing that debate would assume, from his carefully misleading statements, that he was an Air Force pilot with the skills needed to address issues of operations of Dobbins, and the intelligence experience needed to address the present foreign policy issues in Washington,” Stanley wrote.
Stanley, an east Cobb resident, served as Veteran’s Chair in Tricia Pridemore’s unsuccessful run for the 11th district seat. He says he’s a Barr supporter but was not asked to write the piece by Barr.
Barr took 26 percent of the statewide vote, while Loudermilk took 37 percent during the May 20 primary. Four other candidates were knocked out of the race that night.