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Beleaguered Lawmaker Now Faces Questions on His Military Resume

May 01, 1996| From Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. — Rep. Wes Cooley (R-Ore.), already under fire over allegations his wife improperly received veterans' survivor benefits, faced new questions Tuesday in a newspaper report that said he never served in Korea, as he claimed.

The Medford Mail Tribune reported that records of the Army Special Forces unit in which the first-term Republican served in the 1950s contradict his claims he saw combat in the Korean War.

The documents show he didn't finish training at Ft. Bragg, N.C., until Aug. 18, 1953, almost a month after the armistice was signed. A review of about 1,500 pages of reports for the five Army units to which Cooley was assigned contain no entry showing he ever left the United States, the paper said.

Campaigning for Congress in 1994, Cooley, 64, claimed combat experience in campaign materials. His claim of military service in Korea has been repeated in the Almanac of American Politics. An entry in the Oregon Voters Pamphlet listed service in "Army Special Forces, Korea." That was later revised to say, "U.S. Army, 1952-54."

Oregon Secretary of State Phil Keisling has turned over to the state attorney general an investigation into the voters pamphlet claims. False statements in the pamphlet are a crime.

Cooley declined to comment Tuesday on the report about his military record. Cooley is running unopposed in the May 21 primary.

On Monday, Cooley refused to say when he and his wife were married. Rosemary Cooley collected the monthly Veterans Affairs stipend, which gradually rose to $897, until 1993. She began receiving benefits in 1965, after the death of Capt. Perry Herron.

Documents, however, show the Cooleys presented themselves as husband and wife as early as 1985, and close friends also told the Oregonian they were under the impression the couple had married around 1983 in Mexico.

A marriage license is on file for the Cooleys in Riverside, Calif., but the couple paid an extra fee to have the date of the marriage sealed.

VA officials said fraud allegations could arise if the Cooleys were married during the time Rosemary Cooley collected widow's benefits.

Cooley, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said his lawyer advised him that he had broken no laws.

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