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December 04, 2000 Alabama/Alabama's Home on the Net

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Alabama/The Birmingham News

Vets want proof of Bush service

News staff writer

Ten Jefferson County Vietnam veterans are offering $1,000 to anyone with proof that Texas Gov. George W. Bush actually served in the Alabama National Guard.

The presidential candidate claims he spent time in the Guard here during 1972, but others say there are no records to back up Bush. Opponents say he spent his time in the state working on a Senate campaign.

"We don't want anybody like that leading our country," veteran John Stewart said Friday as nine other veterans surrounded him at Linn Park. "Not me as a veteran."

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Stewart said he wants to see documents showing Bush showed up and signed in for Guard drills.

Bush was a pilot with the National Guard in Texas, but he was granted a transfer in 1972 to continue his duties in Alabama while he worked in Winton "Red" Blount's campaign for the U.S. Senate. Blount was a friend of Bush's father.

The Associated Press reported this summer that authorities said no documents exist to show Bush actually performed Guard duty in Alabama. How ever, two friends who worked with Bush on the Blount campaign have said they remember him serving.

When Bush visited Tuscaloosa in June, he had trouble recalling exactly what he did at drill in Alabama, but he said he did attend.

"I can't remember what I did , but I wasn't flying because they didn't have the same airplane. I fulfilled my obligation to my country," Bush said in a Birmingham News story.

The question of whether Bush served resurfaced on the Meet the Press television show this month, prompting Stewart and others to pitch in $100 each for a reward.

"We're not looking for people to just come off the streets to say, 'I know him and he was there,' Stewart said. "We're looking for hard-core evidence."

Dan Bartlett, spokesman for the Bush-Cheney Campaign, said there are documents that Bush met his requirements for every year he served in the Guard.

"They don't call this the silly season for nothing," Bartlett said. "Gov. Bush, again, met all of his requirements. He served honorably and was honorably discharged."

"This gives you more of a picture of the status of the Gore campaign than anything else. They seem to grasping at straws."

Veteran Richard Jones said the veterans set out on their own to expose Bush. "This is not a Democratic National Committee conspiracy. This is not a Gore conspiracy," Jones said. "We got tired of hearing it."

© 2000 The Birmingham News. Used with permission.

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