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WASHINGTON — Just who counts as an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran depends on where you stand.

Or, perhaps where they stood.

Stripes has been tracking 20 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans running for Congress this year, but campaigns on both sides of the political spectrum point out that doesn’t include a number of veterans who played important roles in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

For this newspaper’s purposes, candidates had to serve a tour in either country to be listed as an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran.

That leaves out candidates such as Florida Democrat Doug Tudor, a retired master chief who traveled into Iraq and Afghanistan on several trips in his role as personal assistant to three commanders at U.S. Central Command from 2002 to 2007.

In the same category, most news organizations list Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., as the first and only Iraq war veteran in Congress. But three others — Rep. Chris Carney, D-Pa.; Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa.; and Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn. — all were deployed overseas in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, though none ever entered Afghanistan.

Craig Williams, a former Marine JAG officer and Republican Congressional candidate in Pennsylvania, worked on detainee issues in Iraq and Afghanistan without visiting either country.

And Murphy’s opponent this year, Republican Tom Manion, never entered Iraq or Afghanistan during his 30-year career in the Marine Corps and Reserves. But he served in the Pentagon in a support role up until 2007, and his son, 1st Lt. Travis Manion, was killed in Iraq in 2006 and has been a focal point of that race.

However, the list of 20 in Monday’s editions did omit two veterans who should have been featured.

Congressional candidate Rob Miller, a South Carolina Democrat, served 13 years in the Marine Corps, including two tours in Iraq. The first was in Mosul in 2003; the second a year later, in Haditha and Fallujah.

Congressional candidate Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican, served 20 years on active and reserve duty in the Army and Marine Corps, but came out of retirement in 2005 for an active-duty tour in Iraq in 2006 to help coordinate elections with Marines officials.

For more information on both men, visit legacy.stripes.com.

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