By Jon C. Altmann, Military Retiree
Politics has gotten ugly. It used to be a calling for decent folks who wanted to serve their community, run for office and try to serve. They were not looking to get rich, gain further office – they only wish to serve. State Senator Jeff Dial is one dedicated to serve.
Members of the Arizona Legislature serve for $24,000 annually. The position takes a lot of hours when the Legislature in session. One has to either be independently wealthy, be self-employed or have a very, very understanding employer who will tolerate the absences from work.
Taking cheap pot-shots at those who are serving has become more commonplace. It drives the question – why would someone want to take on the onslaught of nasty commentary, a lot of it often urban legends or simply made-up, put their spouse and children in the spotlight, and take on the task of representing us?
Along comes Jeff Dial. He works hard as a businessman and for a period in his life, served in the Army Reserve. He is part of the less than 1% in our nation that has volunteered to serve. He passed boot camp. Members of the National Guard and Reserve have two lives – their civilian life with a civilian boss/employer and their military life. Often times, the military life interferes with the civilian life. A lot of folks say they support the military, but the experience of more than two decades of service has taught me more of those employers and bosses simply say the word “support” – they don’t give it.
Jeff Dial has a lot in common with another great Arizonan who, decades before, volunteered to serve, served for a short period, and like Jeff, never went to war – the late John Driggs, former Phoenix Mayor and someone who kept working hard at making Arizona better after serving America for the short period he was in uniform. John Driggs enlisted in the Navy near the end of World War II and just as he was graduating boot camp, the war ended. John came home, used his G.I. Bill to get an education and buy a home. John Driggs I know well, I presented his burial flag to his widow this past year – he was buried as a veteran. He honorably served. Jeff Dial has worked hard in public policy to bring folks together – like John Driggs. Both humbly served.
Jeff, like many members of the National Guard and Reserve, had problems with the military’s height/weight standards. I have been one of those myself. Guard and Reserve must train on their own – yet are expected to maintain the same physical standards – including physical agility testing – as the active duty. When an active duty member fails one part of the process, they are given work time every day to “train” to overcome the failure. Guard and Reserve have to steal more time from their civilian life.
Let me clarify – you can pass all the runs, push-ups and other exercises and make the times or better – but if your body fat measurement is too high, you fail the test. On the other hand, you can be in great body fat measurement zone, pass all the test except you are slow on a 1.5 mile run, you fail. The standards have become more rigid coincidental to force reductions. It is hard work for reservists, who are generally older than most of those serving on active duty, to keep pace. It means taking more time away from civilian employer and family.
If a military member is out of standard, they can be barred from reserve duty for medical reasons. And the term “satisfactory participation” varies by service branch, and can be put on a military member for failure to pass the physical standards. I challenge any other American to meet the same standards daily. A Reserve or Guard member must effectively work at it each day – on their own time. Active duty members get to do it on “company time.”
In politics there are winners and losers. I’ve been on the losing side twice. I did not go away – in fact, I continued to work my passion to help others and have many times gone to our Legislature to advocate for veterans, military families, public safety and public education. I work with those who defeated me and work with those who supported me. Sour grapes has not been in my diet.
Jeff Dial has a few political enemies – and those of us in the veterans community know those few – who have sour grapes because they have lost to Jeff in past elections. They have been saying Jeff has lied about his military service and recently got The Arizona Republic to pick apart the issue. They found that Jeff did what he said – that he simply served in the Army Reserve and has an honorable discharge. I’ve known Jeff politically for several years. I have never known him to brag anything about his military service, except to say he served.
Where’s the issue?
Important for veterans, Reserve, National Guard and military families – including those families of Reserve and Guard members – Jeff Dial has been a consistent vote for meaningful, thoughtful legislation that helps veterans and military families. He has had enough service to understand the issues and be thoughtful on bills – and he has voted for bills that some of his Tea Party Republican caucus mates have turned down. Some of those bills that the “Tea Party” folks declined are ones that help veterans.
I am in an unique position – years ago I was a news reporter for The Phoenix Gazette and later a manager in the circulation department of the Republic and Gazette. During my many years of service at the newspaper, I was serving in the Navy Reserve. I came to work one day to learn that our publisher, Darrow “Duke” Tully had falsified an entire career as an Air Force officer. He wore uniforms to military events, he bragged about his service and put out that he had even earned the rank of a senior Air Force officer before retiring form the Air Force Reserve. But a political opponent went digging and found no service at all.
As a loyal employee of the paper, I was hurt. Mr. Tully resigned and left town.
Jeff Dial earned his uniform and has not lied. Yet, The Arizona Republic senses some story that he over-played his role in the Army Reserve, yet offers nothing concrete. They readily state by one of their columnists that Jeff Dial has been a moderate Republican – something the editorial pages of The Republic seem to extol. Yet they ran a story that has a questionable news value. They fail to mention who brought them this “story.” Now a group of Republican party precinct committeemen who say they are veterans are protesting. I’m a Republican, too. I left the ranks of being a “PC” some years back because I find that too many of the PCs are extreme in their views and generally don’t well represent the broader based views held by voters. It is no secret that most GOP precinct meetings are dominated by the Tea Party emotions and don’t seem to want to get along. President Gerald Ford said that we can disagree without being disagreeable. I simply got tired of the many of the latter. Now they are soap-boxing.
When I was reporter, my City Editor wanted me to be forthright in my sources and justify them before the paper ran one drop of ink. I was brought up that the paper had to be beyond politics and reproach. The lives and reputations of people could serious damaged by less than stellar research.
I am no novice to veterans issues. I hold an elected national office, sit on two government commissions/advisory groups, one local and one Federal and have worked hard to get legislation passed and signed by the governor. No easy task. The cannon fodder being pointed at Jeff Dial are barrels of junk information attempting to besmirch the good efforts of State Senator Dial. The slimy part of this is the fact that those firing the cannons could be termed “sore losers.” The perpetrators are in the shadows – and what do they have to say for their military records and why some of them are no longer serving?
I must question two things in this quest by some against Stat Senator Dial – why is the paper chasing this non-story and making attacks an office holder that generally meets the editorial positions the paper has taken? More so, as someone who has been a career journalist and published writer, why didn’t the paper do a more careful due-diligence on who brought them the story and why? The newspaper should not allow itself to be use for the sour grapes soap boxing of others, especially when the man involved had done nothing but tried to serve and did so honorably.
I spent 22 years serving active and reserve in national intelligence. I have been a senior enlisted leader three times. I can’t name all my commanding officers and I can’t recall all the junior enlisted leaders who worked under me. I doubt seriously asking Jeff Dial, who was a private who tried serving diligently, asking Jeff about service 16 years ago is a worthy question. Jeff is not alone in service members, active and reserve, we sent home for failing the rigorous physical standards. We sent each of those folks home with honorable discharges because the military has at least the decorum to say they met the bar in being honorable.
If a hard-working veterans’ community advocate like myself knows the details easily and readily, why didn’t the paper’s news team? Jeff Dial deserves an apology. From me, a retired senior enlisted leader, Jeff Dial gets my thanks for showing up and trying to serve our nation. Only 17% of all us who serve, active or reserve, stay for 20 more years as a career. Jeff Dial was among the 83% who came, gave his country some time – and now as an elected official – continues to help veterans and all Arizonans. We cannot defend America without the 83% that Jeff Dial is part of.
Jeff has done more than 99% of everyone else (because only 1% of Americans today have served) – and he continues to serve, despite bush league shots at this character. This grateful veterans advocate thanks Jeff not only for his service in uniform, but the continued service to veterans he has done as a legislator.
About Jon Altmann
Jon Altmann is a retired U.S. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer, having served active and reserve service for 22 years. He currently serves as an elected national officer of one veterans organization, along with serving on two public bodies, one national the other local, concerned with veterans and military retirees. He is a former newspaper reporter who went onto working more than two decades in the public safety field, mostly as a top end manager or executive. He is a graduate of Arizona State University and additional course work through the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Office of Naval Intelligence. His last four assignments were as a senior enlisted leader in major intelligence community commands. Comments and opinions expressed by Jon C. Altmann are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy, or any of the organizations he volunteers his time in helping others.
Jeff Dial - Still serving, despite the IED"s of politics.