On a stage crowded with war heroes, Mitt Romney recently praised the sacrifice “of the great men and women of every generation who serve in our armed services.”
It is a sacrifice the Republican presidential candidate did not make.
Though an early supporter of the Vietnam War, Romney avoided military service at the height of the fighting after high school by seeking and receiving four draft deferments, according to Selective Service records. They included college deferments and a 31-month stretch as a “minister of religion” in France, a classification for Mormon missionaries that the church at the time feared was being overused. http://www.nwherald.com/2012/06/05/romneys-deferments-in-1960s-face-new-scrutiny/aiqppmm/
Political rivals, military veterans among them, suggest that Romney's own decision not to serve in the military is in conflict with his pro-military rhetoric.
"He didn't have the courage to go. He didn't feel it was important enough to him to serve his country at a time of war," said Jon Soltz, who served two Army tours in Iraq and is the chairman of the left-leaning veterans group VoteVets.org.
Critics note that the candidate is among three generations of Romneys – including his father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, and five sons – who were of military age during armed conflicts but did not serve.
"It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam, but nor did I take any actions to remove myself from the pool of young men who were eligible for the draft," Romney told the newspaper.
But that's exactly what Romney did, according Selective Service records. He received his first deferment for "activity in study" in October 1965 while at Stanford.
As Soltz notes, the younger Romney was under no obligation to seek a college-related deferment.
"Vietnam was a war that the poor and the people who couldn't afford to go to college had to go to," Soltz said.
After his first year at Stanford, Romney qualified for 4-D deferment status as "a minister of religion or divinity student." It was a status he would hold from July 1966 until February 1969, a period he largely spent in France working as a Mormon missionary.
He was granted the deferment even as some young Mormon men elsewhere were denied that same status, which became increasingly controversial in the late 1960s. The Mormon church, a strong supporter of American involvement in Vietnam, ultimately limited the number of church missionaries allowed to defer their military service using the religious exemption.
But as fighting in Vietnam raged, Romney spent two and a half years trying to win Mormon converts in France. About that same time, Romney's father would famously speak out against Vietnam, declaring that he had been "brainwashed" by military officials into supporting the conflict.
Young Romney's comments indicated his support had waned, too.
"If it wasn't a political blunder to move into Vietnam, I don't know what is," a 23-year-old Romney would tell The Boston Globe in 1970 during the fifth year of his deferment.
His 31-month religious deferment expired in early 1969. And Romney received an academic studies deferment for much of the next two years. He became available for military service at the end of 1970 when his deferments ran out and he could have been drafted. But by that time, America was beginning to slice its troop levels, and Romney's relatively high lottery number – 300 out of 365 – was not called.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/mitt-romney-vietnam-war-draft_n_1571288.html