Lawmaker Accused of Embellishing Military Service
Rep. Mike Ritze (R-OK) has been removed from the rolls of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and asked not to use the organization in his biography or literature.
The legislator has been accused of wearing military service decorations that he didn’t earn, including a Purple Heart, by two of his House colleagues — Reps. Kevin McDugle and Josh West.
“I ask that you remove any reference to being a member, honorary or otherwise, from your bio or any other document which suggests that you are a member of DAV,” wrote J. Marc Burgess, DAV’s National Adjutant , in a letter to Ritze dated May 7th.
Ritze claimed he was awarded an honorary membership in the group, but Burgess said the group’s constitution prohibits honorary memberships. He went on to say that it was unfortunate that members of the DAV chapter that gave Ritze the membership were not aware of the policies.
At issue was the DAV cover (hat) with a Purple Heart insignia worn by Ritze, implying that he was a member of DAV and had been awarded the medal only given to those who were wounded or killed while serving in the U.S. military.
An osteopathic doctor, Ritze joined the Oklahoma National Guard in 1977 and later transferred to the U.S. Army Medical Corps Reserve. from the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow, Ritze has faced criticism recently from two of his Republican colleagues, Reps. Kevin McDugle and Josh West, both combat veterans, who accused him of wearing military decorations he hasn’t earned, including a Purple Heart.
McDugle served eight years with the U.S. Marines, serving with an infantry unit, special forces unit and airborne forward observer unit, and was also a drill instructor.
West, who served nine years in the Army, was awarded a Purple Heart from a firefight in Iraq in 2003 where he was shot in both legs and the stomach and sustained a traumatic brain injury.
“In my mind, anyone who served in the military is a hero,” McDugle said. “There is no reason to embellish your service in the military.”