Medal of Honor recipient Thomas Hudner endorses Republican Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez
BOSTON — Medal of Honor recipient Thomas Hudner Jr. on Thursday endorsed Gabriel Gomez in the U.S. Senate race.
“In this town, especially, you need integrity, you need a well-run government,” the 87-year-old Hudner said in a short speech introducing Gomez at the World War II Veterans Memorial in South Boston. “We have a candidate running for senator and I can’t think of anything better (than) to have a person of his integrity and his capabilities to run.”
Gomez is facing former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan and State Rep. Daniel Winslow in the Republican primary. Gomez, who has no political experience, has focused heavily on his biography. Gomez graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1987 and spent nine years in the Navy, as a pilot and then a Navy SEAL.
Hudner, of Concord, is a retired U.S. Navy captain and a Korean War veteran. He was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman in 1951 for crash landing his plane in enemy territory during the Korean War to try to save the life of his wingman, who was shot down by enemy fire. Hudner also served a brief tour of duty during the Vietnam War, retiring in 1973. Last year, a U.S. Navy ship was named in his honor.
Hudner supported and campaigned for former Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s 2012 campaign. (Brown has served in the Army National Guard for 32 years, mostly in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.)
At Thursday’s event, Hudner wore his medal around his neck. Gomez, wearing a jacket with a military insignia, put his arm around Hudner. “To be in the presence, even to be in the same room with somebody of Captain Hudner’s stature is about as humbling as it gets,” Gomez said after the event. “I’d give anything to have my kids grow up to be someone like him.”
Gomez said the country needs to do a better job taking care of returning veterans, given the huge increase in disabled veterans stemming from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gomez said some servicemen today face up to 10 deployments. “I don’t care if you’re Superman or Superwoman, you’re going to have some kind of mental health associated with your deployments,” Gomez said. “We need to make sure they have proper access to mental health care when they get back.”
Gomez promised that his top priority in the U.S. Senate would be taking care of veterans.
Asked about defense spending, Gomez said he would increase money for training, resources, equipment and health care treatment. He thinks the Department of Defense can cut 10 to 15 percent of its civilian employees and can streamline certain weapons development programs.
Nearly 20 veterans attended the event. Denny Drewry, a Westborough selectman, worked on Brown’s Senate staff as a regional representative for veterans’ issues. Drewry served in the U.S. Army Special Forces during the Vietnam War and earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He said he is impressed with Gomez’s biography as a veteran, businessman and son of immigrants. “He’s the kind of person we need in the Republican Party who can bridge the gap and represent all folks,” Drewry said. “I trust the man.”
Joe Bellino, of Bedford, spent 28 years in the Navy. A former football player, he won the Heisman Trophy while playing for the Naval Academy and spent three seasons with the New England Patriots in the 1960s. A registered independent, Bellino said he decided to support Gomez after a friend from the Naval Academy introduced them. “His background and mine are similar,” Bellino said.