Holmes Beach mayoral candidate Joshua Linney concedes he never saw combat during his three years in the U.S. Army but according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs definition, Linney is correct in describing himself as a “Gulf War veteran.”
“More than 650,000 Service members served in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm from August 2, 1990 to July 31, 1991. For VA benefits eligibility purposes, the Gulf War period is still in effect,” the VA website states. “This means that anyone who served on active duty from August 2, 1990, to present is considered a Gulf War Veteran. For example, the Veterans Pension benefit requires service during a wartime period. Therefore, any Veteran who served on active military service for any period from August 2, 1990, to the present meets the wartime service requirement.”
Linney served in the Army from from 1993 to 1996.
Tanya Boozer, a Desert Storm veteran and veteran advocate, and who runs a Gulf War Veterans Facebook page, also said Linney is a Gulf War veteran.
“News sources have been reporting, incorrectly, that the Gulf War is over when in fact it still has not officially ended, therefore, Mr. Linney is indeed a Gulf War veteran. I have not seen any of his statements, so cannot say what is true or false in them.”
Boozer went on to say, “Even those of us who served in Operation Desert Storm were told that ‘the war was over’ when it fact there was only a cease fire declared, and no official end to the war has been declared as of this date, and all veterans who served from Aug. 2, 1990 until a date yet to be declared are Gulf War veterans.”
In an interview with the Bradenton Herald on Friday, Linney sought to clarify his service record and the words he chose to describe his service. He said he never intended to imply that he saw combat.
“I have never referenced myself as a combat veteran or a veteran of Desert Storm,” Linney said. “I wouldn’t do that and don’t identify as a combat veteran. I could say that, but I don’t.”
Linney retracted a statement made in his campaign biography that he graduated from Advanced Infantry Training, which was listed in his original campaign biography because there is no such thing in the U.S. Army. Linney was referring to Advanced Individual Training, something every soldier completes at the end of basic training with an emphasis on that soldier’s chosen job.
Linney also retracted a statement that his unit deployed to Iraq in 1994. In actuality, Linney deployed to Kuwait after Iraq once again began to build up forces on the border. In a previous interview, Linney said he told everybody he was in Iraq because it was easier to explain than saying, “I flew into Saudi Arabia.”
In his revised campaign biography, Linney writes “Before my college enrollment was finished, our unit received orders for deployment to the Middle East where I spent nearly a year traveling between Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait.”
Though he remembers where he was deployed in northern Kuwait, he could not remember where he was in Iraq. He also told the Bradenton Herald that he served nearly a year in the Middle East, but according to his separation documents, it was from Oct. 10, 1994 to Dec. 4.
He also said in the revised biography, ““I’m a veteran of the gulf war period whose worked to overcome war, trauma, alcoholism, chemical dependence and PTSD, while living with disabilities, and I conquered them all.”
When asked why he referenced overcoming “war” specifically, Linney again acknowledged that he did not participate in combat operations, but that technically it was a war zone, and according to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ website, he met the definition of a combat veteran.
Linney said he relied on outside sources to write his campaign biography, but he took full responsibility for the mistakes and choices of words.
“I realize that’s my fault for not checking that,” he said. “I trusted those people and in hindsight, I should have specified more clearly.”
Linney also pointed to his traumatic brain injury for some memory lapses in clarifying his biography. He was injured while falling out of a truck before his Middle Eastern deployment while on a training exercise in Ft. Irwin, Calif.
When asked why he would originally write he was injured, “While in action,” Linney again blamed his biography writers, but said technically it was true, “Because the truck was in action. It was moving when I fell out.”
Linney was medically discharged in 1996 for Gulf War Syndrome, the brain injury and other health issues, including post traumatic stress disorder. He believes his PTSD comes from his time in the Middle East for being under the threat of attack. He was discharged with 10 percent disability, but currently collects 60 percent.
“I got it for the Gulf War period,” he said. “The alarms, the drills whatever. I used to wake up thinking I was in a burning tank.”
Linney did go on to say, “I never actively served in a combat situation in that theater. I”m not trying to get into the side stuff. I know I wasn’t there during a hostile period.”
Linney has an extensive arrest record for drug possession, DUI, misdemeanor thefts and five felonies relating mostly to his DUIs. Most of his charges were either dropped, plea bargained down to lesser charges or in the case of two of his most recent incidents, a petit theft from a Bradenton Walmart in 2016, and a petit theft from a Palmetto Walmart in 2016, he paid restitution and court fees.