Feb. 13, 2007
Kentucky Kernel Article, dated November 1, 1996.
Senator’s Discharge Questioned
By Chris Padgett
A letter found in the UK Library Department of Special Collections of a request from a former U.S. Senator to the then commanding general of Fort Knox created conflicting stories Thursday about the military record of Republican U. S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.
The letter was found in the personal letters of U. S. Sen. John Sherman Cooper, a Republican from Kentucky. it was written to Maj. Gen. A. D. Surles, commanding general of Fort Knox. McConnell served as an intern in Coopers Washington, DC. office in summer of 1964. He was in boot camp at Ft. Knox and a member of the 100th Division of the U.S. Army Reserve.
The letter was dated August 10, 1967, during a time when U.S. troops were being sent to Vietnam for combat duty.
In the letter, Cooper advises the major general that ‘Mitchell anxious to clear post in order to enroll NYU. Please advise when final action can he expected.”
According to the Registrar’s Office at New York University, no record exists that
McConnell ever applied or enrolled for classes at that university. McConnell attended
UK and earned a law degree in 1967 before he enlisted in the Army reserve.
Representatives from McConnell’s office offered two differing statements regarding McConnell’s discharge.
“Senator McConnell had polio as a child and he never served in armed services.” said Robert Steurer, press secretary for McConnell in Washington. “I am not aware of him ever serving.”
Kyle Simmons, McConnell’s campaign manager in Louisville, offered a different story about the senator’s military record during a phone conversation yesterday.
According to Simmons, McConnell enlisted for four months of active duty with the Army reserve at Fort Knox.
Simmons said that McConnell failed his physical examination as a result of a doctor’s diagnosis of McConnell having the medical condition of optic neuritis.
According to UK Chandler Medical Center Public Affairs, optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve. The condition causes blurred vision and color sensitivity. Optic neuritis usually affects only one eye at a time. The condition is a symptom of multiple sclerosis.
Dr. Mike Minx, with the department of ophthalmology at the UK Med Center, explained that optic neuritis usually affects individuals I 5-45 years of age.
According to Minx, the condition can usually be treated with steroids. “Within three-four weeks of having the condition, individuals will usually have their eyesight return to 20-20 vision or normal vision."
This same type of treatment would have been prescribed in 1967, although advancements have been made in the treatment of this eye condition, he said.
Dr. Timothy Allen is the chief medical officer with the U. S. Military and is stationed in Louisville, Kentucky.
According to Allen, optic neuritis by itself is not a reason for an individual to be discharged from the military. McConnell, who also held a position in the UK College of Law in 1994, would not be interviewed and would not comment on Cooper’s letter or his discharge.
“Senator McConnell will not be available to discuss this,” Simmons said. “We have not and will not release Senator McConnell’s medical records.”