Veterans across the state are discussing U.S. Sen. John Walsh's admission that he plagiarized a significant portion of his final research paper for the Army War College while dealing with the mental health effects of his service in Iraq.
Retired Montana National Guard Sgt. Maj. Timothy Pentecost fought in Vietnam and Iraq, and according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, is 100 percent disabled by post-traumatic stress disorder. He also worked with Walsh.
“It's totally bogus,” an outraged Pentecost told the Chronicle. “I can't believe he's using the PTSD as a reason for what he has done in plagiarizing the paper, and that weak response he had was terrible.”
Brian Rudolph, 31, an Iraq and Afghanistan combat veteran from Great Falls, said he still has not heard Walsh apologize.
“I don't know if it's going to do a whole lot; I don't know how much people overall take that into consideration,” said Rudolph. “It's not that hard to cite something. It's quite a bit of his paper really. But I think there's a lot of people out there who have never had to write a paper so they might not understand the whole deal about it.”
Rudolph said he does not lean toward either Walsh, a Democrat, or U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, a Republican, both running for U.S. Senate. He was concerned about Walsh's integrity and that the PTSD reference was an irrelevant play for the public's sympathy.
“That's what bugged me the most. He almost said he was taking Paxil as if he had to say it but that it was just a small dose so people wouldn't think he was crazy,” said Rudolph. “I feel like it's a slap in the face to people who have obviously been through more than he has. I just don't see how if you have a PTSD issue it's going to cause you to plagiarize a paper. I can see how somebody could have a flashback and hit their spouse while they're sleeping. But if you're totally cognizant typing a paper and then say, ‘Ah I'm a little bit depressed so I'm not going to cite this.' It just doesn't make sense.”
Bozeman's Rick Gale, who saw combat in Vietnam and is a parent of a wounded Iraq veteran, said in an email to the Chronicle on Thursday that he was disappointed by Walsh's plagiarism.
“I think most of us who are combat veterans can relate to his explanation about struggling with PTSD issues after a deployment,” said Gale. “At the same time, we hold our elected leaders to a higher standard when it comes to integrity.”
Gale recently attended two town hall-style meetings with Walsh and was impressed with his military record and advocacy for veterans and their health care.
“He will have to work hard to restore the public’s trust during the days and weeks ahead,” Gale said. “Hopefully, Montanans will look at his entire record of service to this country before giving up on him.”