Palazzo denies claims he went AWOL from National Guard

Palazzo denies claims he went AWOL from National Guard

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Libertarian Candidate Ric McCluskey dropped one of his biggest accusations about incumbent Representative Steven Palazzo on Thursday night.

McCluskey claims Palazzo went AWOL from National Guard duty while serving in Bravo Company with the 1-155 Combined Arms Battalion in Poplarville. While he has no documentation to back up the claims, McCluskey says several sources came to him with information.

The main source is former Staff Sgt. Rolan Wade of Lucedale, who says Palazzo served as a squad leader under him.

In an exclusive interview with WLOX News Now, Wade says Palazzo was documented as AWOL after not attending mandatory drills from August 2013 until at least 2015 when he was transferred from the unit. Palazzo was serving in the House of Representatives at the time.

During the League of Women Voters Gulf Coast political forum, both McCluskey and Democratic candidate Mark Gladney commented on the allegations.

"I will urge the national Libertarian Party. I hope that you urge the national Democratic Party. I want to urge the national Republican Party to launch an investigation immediately," McCluskey said. "Congressman Palazzo has stolen money from the people of Mississippi, and he shucked duty one more time."

Added Gladney, "As a retired lieutenant colonel, I'm extremely upset that we would have anybody be AWOL, especially somebody that's a public figure and a leader in the community. It's unacceptable and it's indicative of character."

Jill Duckworth, Palazzo's campaign manager refuted the claims, releasing the following statement:

"This is a ridiculous accusation and a desperate attempt to smear a soldier's service solely for political gain. Furthermore it is completely false."

Palazzo missed the Thursday night forum, and Wednesday night's debate in Hattiesburg, for previous engagements.

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