An opponent of Mississippi 4th Congressional District Congressman Steven Palazzo (R) says he sought “special favors” in order to avoid military service in Iraq in a press conference held Thursday at the Veterans Memorial in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
Flanked by veterans, Republican congressional candidate E. Brian Rose made the dramatic accusation hours after he posted a series of potentially damaging documents on his website.
The documents show that Palazzo sought a hardship discharge in August of 2004, which was the same month the 155th Armored Combat Team – which Palazzo was a part of – was deployed to serve in Iraq.
One of the requests for deferment was CC’d to then-Congressman Gene Taylor, a long-serving Democratic congressman who Palazzo toppled in 2010. That year, Palazzo touted his military service as a reason to vote Taylor out and elect him instead.
Sources says Taylor chose not to use Palazzo’s deferment requests against him in that campaign because he felt the issue wasn’t fair game.
“Days before the last election when accusations were swirling about Congressman Palazzo failing to report to drill duty, he told reporters South Mississippians know that his military service is a badge of honor to him,” Rose said in Thursday’s conference. “And we know this because every two years he swoops down from Washington to tell us. He also tells us that he is the only member of Congress who is concurrently serving in the United States National Guard. What Palazzo fails to tell us is that he wears the uniform for show.”
Rose says Palazzo misled in his requests for deferment
At one point in the press conference, Rose gestured to the veterans who were standing behind him.
“Some of them were part of Mississippi’s 155th in 2004 when that call [to serve in Iraq] came in,” Rose said. “Steven Palazzo was also a member of the 155th when that call came in. Did he serve with the honor that he touts in his campaign speeches? No. When he found out he was going to be activated, Palazzo sought special treatment, asking for a deferment. He used family connections to Congress and was able to secure a desk job at Camp Shelby while his brothers left for the battlefields of Iraq.”
Palazzo named his ill-father-in-law as part of his reason for seeking a discharge, Rose said, pointing to the documents on his website.
“Palazzo’s former wife Lisa echoed this, with her own affidavit that [said] her husband was the only one who could take care of her father’s cattle farm,” Rose said.
One of the documents on Rose’s website is an affidavit from Wendy Scroggins, a former sister-in-law of Palazzo’s, who says Palazzo never cared for her ailing father’s cattle farm.
Rose: ‘The military just didn’t pay enough for Steven Palazzo’
“The military just didn’t pay enough for Steven Palazzo,” Rose said. “He provided financial statements saying he was living a life that was just too extravagant for a soldier.”
Rose said he uncovered documents from the Department of Housing and Urban Development “showing Mr. Palazzo was not only receiving funds during the time of his military activation, but was also performing work for his civilian employer.”
“Steven Palazzo says he wears his uniform as a badge of honor, but while his brothers were out sacrificing on the battlefields of Iraq, he was sitting at a desk job begging to come home,” Rose said. “Where is the honor in that?”
Rose pointed to a bi-annual publication by the Association of the United States Army called Once A Soldier, Always a Soldier.
“The book lists Steven Palazzo as being a veteran of the Iraq War – the very conflict that he pulled strings to get out of going to,” Rose said. “The book’s publisher told us that they received this information straight from the offices of Steven Palazzo.”
“If that’s not enough, the quote in the latest version of the book says, ‘My time in the Army National Guard has taught me that true service is all about sacrifice.’ That is not sacrifice. This is stolen valor. And it’s shameful. There were 15 men from Steven Palazzo’s brigade that lost their lives in Iraq. That is sacrifice.”
Among the veterans joining Rose was Bill Vallon, a veteran of the 155th who served in Iraq and is now the President of Bikers for Trump.
“Bill is a real Iraq War veteran,” Rose said. He then allowed Vallon a moment to speak.
“Palazzo did everything he could to avoid joining us on the battlefield and then everything he could to get out of the military while the rest of us were making the sacrifices that he loves to take credit for,” Vallon said.
“This is not the man I want representing me in Washington. He’s unfit to serve in the military, and he’s unfit to serve in Congress. I’m asking all my fellow veterans and their families to join me in demanding Steven Palazzo resign from office effectively immediately.”
In a statement sent to WLOX, Palazzo denied the allegations and defended his record.
“Thirteen years ago, when my family was going through a very difficult time in our lives, I requested a hardship waiver from the Army so I could take care of them. My commander denied my request, and I faithfully served out my time on active duty in the Mississippi Army National Guard.
“Not once have I ever denied that I requested this waiver more than a decade ago. I am a better person and a better soldier because I remained in the National Guard, where I have and continue to serve to this day. I’ve been in the military since I was 19 years old, deployed overseas as a U.S. Marine in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, have served more than 20 years in the military, and am proud of every single minute I’ve spent in the United States Armed Forces.
“Unfortunately, every two years my political opponents feel the need to attack my family, my military service and my character. Frankly, it’s disgusting and my opponent should be ashamed.”