TOLEDO, Ohio — A congressional candidate criticized for dressing in a Nazi uniform during World War II re-enactments is facing questions from his opponent about whether he is exaggerating his military service.
Republican Rich Iott is a colonel in the Ohio Military Reserve, a volunteer militia authorized by the state and overseen by the commander of the Ohio's national guard units.
The (Toledo) Blade reports that Iott says in a campaign mailer that his experience helps him understand "the sacrifices our men and women in uniform have made because he serves himself."
His opponent in the fall election, incumbent Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, has said Iott is trying to mislead voters into believing that he is in the armed forces.
"He's not active military, he's not a veteran," Kaptur spokesman Steve Fought told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Iott is proud of his 28 years of volunteering in Ohio Military Reserve and has never claimed to be a veteran, said campaign spokesman Matthew Parker.
Kaptur's criticism of his service "shows she's devoid of any ideas and can't run on her record," he said.
Parker said Iott's militia service is only a small part of his campaign and that he is focused on creating jobs, reducing the deficit and lowering taxes.
The Ohio Military Reserve is an official state militia and can be asked by the governor to help during natural disasters or other emergencies within the state. The group can't be called up for national defense duty like the national guard or Marine and Army Reserves.
Units are trained in medical support, shelter management and logistical support. Members no longer take part in weapons training, which was phased out about 10 years ago, said Charles Brown, an assistant chief of staff with the reserve.
Little was known about Iott up until less than two weeks ago when photos surfaced of him wearing a Nazi uniform while participating in World War II re-enactments.
Iott said he took part in the historical re-enactments to educate the public, and did not agree with the Nazis' views or their actions against Jews.
The House Republicans' No. 2 leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, said he would not support someone who would dress in Nazi attire.