Candidate's Military Record EmbellishedBy H.G. Reza and Ashley Powers
May 12, 2006
An Assembly candidate from the Inland Empire who protested his opponent's ballot designation as a "Retired Marine Colonel" admitted this week that his own military service record had been exaggerated on his campaign website.
Jim Ayres, a Republican running in the 65th Assembly District, claimed to have earned a Gulf War combat award that Air Force officials said he was not given. He also said he received a Cold War medal when in fact he was the recipient of a certificate available to anyone who served during the Cold War.
Ayres' military record was corrected on his campaign website Wednesday after The Times interviewed him.
"It's a mistake on our website," said Ayres, who served 21 years in the military. "In no way, shape or form were we trying to mislead anybody."
The Ayres campaign funded a lawsuit earlier this year that unsuccessfully challenged the ballot designation of his opponent, Ret. Col. Paul Cook, who received a Bronze Star for valor and two Purple Hearts for service in Vietnam.
Ayres argued that Cook should not be allowed to refer to himself as a "Retired Marine Colonel" because he was now a college professor. Cook declined to comment Thursday about the controversy over Ayres' military resume. But he said he was still angry over the lawsuit.
"When he goes after me for being a Marine, I take umbrage," said Cook, who served for more than two decades in the military. "I'm very proud of being a career Marine."
Military credentials can be important to candidates in this Republican-heavy community that includes the cities of Hemet, Yucaipa and Twentynine Palms, home to a Marine base.
Ayres, who spent most of his military service in the Air Force Reserve, has highlighted his service record throughout his campaign.
On his website and in printed campaign materials, Ayres said he was awarded a Southwest Asia Service Medal for valor and a Cold War medal.
All veterans of the Gulf War qualified for the Southwest Asia Service medal, which was not given for valor, said Tech Sgt. Robert C. Mims, an Air Force spokesman.
Ayres received the Southwest medal, Mims said.
On the candidate's website Thursday, it stated that Ayres received the "Southwest Asia Service Medal with Bronze Star."
In this case, the "Bronze Star" refers to a bronze service star, which is pinned on campaign ribbons signifying participation in a particular operation.
Ayres' military record shows he was awarded an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for valor issued to each member in his unit, Mims said.
Mims said Ayres also received a Cold War certificate for service during the Cold War years.
"But it's not a medal, and it's not an official Air Force decoration," Mims said. "Anybody who served in the military during the Cold War [from Sept. 2, 1945 to Dec. 26, 1991] qualifies for the certificate."
Ayres described his jobs in the military as a "parachute packer" and "survival equipment specialist."
Ayres, whose military service spanned from 1982 to 2003, said the distinction between a certificate and a medal was minimal.
"Does it make that much more difference whether it's a medal or certificate?" he said. "It's a medal that you can purchase based on the certificate. Is it recognized by the Department of Defense? No."
On Thursday, Ayres referred further questions to Tim Clark, his campaign consultant. Clark said the website changes were made by the webmaster, whom he said "had a typo that he corrected." He said Ayres never intended to mislead the voters.
"[Ayres] has served admirably," Clark said. "Any attempt to attack his service record is downright shameful."http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-credentials12may12,1,3367826.story
Ouch. This on the heels of the YRs doing IEs calling Ayres a tax-raiser, and YAF filing a federal complaint against him. Bad week.