On Veterans Day, Senate Candidates Highlight Military Ties

(CBS) — Veterans Day celebrations in the Chicago area today were a mix of patriotism and politics.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine was Soldier Field with two candidates with close ties to the military, incumbent Senator Mark Kirk and challenger Tammy Duckworth.

Duckworth asked to speak only after learning Kirk would be there too and what they said during and after the event was revealing.

Senator Kirk, the former naval intelligence officer, talked about all he’s done for veterans. Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, merely said thanks. But afterward, Duckworth talked about how her experience as an Army pilot, shot down in Iraq, defines who she is.

“Tomorrow is my ‘alive’ day, it’s the 11th anniversary of the day I was shot down,” she said. “I think about the guys who carried me out who could have left me behind and didn’t. I just have to be more. I just have to do more with my life.”

When asked what her service does to qualify her for what’s ahead, Duckworth said, “I think I can be a really unique voice in the Senate. The drums of war are easy to sound. You’re hearing it now over Syria, you’re hearing it now over ISIS. I think combined with my experience on the Armed Services Committee, I can really be that eye that looks at all proposals with a critical eye not just from a patriotic eye but also is this something that has an exit strategy? Is this something with a well thought out plan?”

A few moments later, Senator Kirk answered the same question.

“When you where the uniform, you realize that you could possibly get killed doing this service and it’s that important that you’re putting your entire life on the line for the United States of America.”

He says it makes him a much better senator.

“In my sense, it brings your personal commitment that whenever I see veterans, I see myself,” Kirk said.

Andrea Zopp, the daughter and wife of military men, took part in the opening of an apartment complex for veterans in Joliet today, emphasizing that you don’t have to be a veteran to care about them.

“It is unconscionable that we have veterans who don’t have homes, that don’t have access to the right kind of health care,” Zopp said. “We’ve gotta fix that.”

Mark Kirk is running unopposed in the March GOP primary, though some party leaders remain concerned about his health. Duckworth and Zopp are battling for the Democratic nomination for a seat Democrats hope to retake; Republicans need to retain.

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