Both campaigns in the 1st Congressional District race are hoping for the veterans’ vote heading into the November election.

Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan has received the nod from several veterans’ groups, including a recent endorsement from the national Veterans of Foreign Wars political action committee.

Mollohan himself is a veteran, having served as a captain in the U.S. Army Reserves prior to his congressional career.

His Republican challenger, Chris Wakim, also a veteran, took the VFW’s endorsement over him with stride.

“I have nothing but respect for the VFW and its members,” Wakim said. “As a West Point graduate, 11-year Army veteran and the only candidate in this race who has actually spent nights laying in a VA Hospital, I have complete faith that the VFW’s members will vote for the candidate that they believe knows and represents their interests the best.”

Wakim’s military record has faced public scrutiny in recent months, as the candidate has been accused of lying about serving in the Persian Gulf. Wakim never served there during his tenure in the military.

Instead, he worked in Massachusetts, training Army soldiers for deployment.

Several national newspapers reported on Wakim padding his resume, but the candidate still considers himself a Gulf War veteran based on definitions in the U.S. Code.

Mollohan spokesman Gerry Griffith doesn’t believe that played a huge role in determining the VFW’s endorsement.

Griffith contends Mollohan’s championing of veterans’ causes throughout his 24-year reign was the deciding factor.

“Veterans have always had a staunch proponent in Alan Mollohan starting from when he served on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee,” Griffith said.

Salvatore J. Capirchio, national director of the VFW’s PAC, said the organization backs Mollohan because he supports the following initiatives: A constitutional amendment to prevent flag burning and desecration, making educational benefits for members of the Reserves and National Guard more comparable to those for active duty members, and improving the Veterans Administration health care system and other benefits.

Mollohan is also credited for helping veterans through the Robert H. Mollohan Foundation, a charitable organization created by the congressman and his siblings in honor of their father.

The foundation helps cover living expenses for family members of wounded West Virginia soldiers.

“These things are certainly no secrets in veterans’ circles,” Griffith said.

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