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Kate Brown’s Fundraising Email Invoking Vietnam War Dismays Vets

Governor circulates misleading message in wake of President Trump's attack on transgender military members.

On Aug. 7, Gov. Kate Brown sent out a fundraising email attempting to leverage President Donald Trump's odious tweet calling for a ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.

But Brown over-reached in her attempt to align herself with members of the military.

"I was born on a military base when my dad served in the Air Force in the midst of the Vietnam War," Brown wrote.

In fact, the governor was born in June 1960, when records show the U.S. had fewer than 1,000 military advisers in Vietnam.

And the military base where she was born was outside Madrid, more than 6,000 miles from Vietnam.

Brown's campaign manager, Thomas Wheatley, admits Brown's father never saw combat duty and completed his service in 1961—years before the U.S. committed combat troops in Vietnam.

Two state representatives—one a Democrat and one a Republican—who are Vietnam vets, say they found the language in Brown's email concerning.

State Rep. Jeff Reardon (D-Portland), who served on a submarine during the Vietnam War, said Brown's allusion to the conflict made him uncomfortable.

"I would be very careful not to detract from the honorable service of those who were in Vietnam, facing things I don't want to think about," Reardon says. "I would caution Gov. Brown or anybody else to be very careful. It's a very sensitive matter to those of us who have served."

Rep. Sal Esquivel (R-Medford), who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War and who has been critical of Brown's approach to veterans' issues, says he found the fundraising pitch offensive.

"Being a Vietnam vet, it really upsets me," Esquivel says of the email. "I think anybody who was part of the war in any form would resent it."

Wheatley acknowledges the email was misleading but says that was not anybody's intention.

"It would have been more precise to say that the Governor's father served in the military 'during the lead up' to the Vietnam War rather than 'in the midst' of the war," Wheatley says. "The email text was written by staff seeking to describe the era in which she was born and grew up, rather than make any claims of combat service."