On May 8th of this year, a young soldier stationed at a base in Utah named Joseph Bushling went missing. Since then, all that has been found was his vehicle and his baseball cap, both found out in the desert. Since then, his father Kevin Bushling, a resident of Arkansas, has been doing everything he could to find his son or his remains. However, the military has been less than helpful, listing his son as AWOL, making apparently little effort to find him in the first place, and even going so far as to stonewall information that could help out volunteer search teams. Mr. Bushling says that he even had to fight to get his son’s personal belongings back. So he turned to his congressman, Steve Womack, for help. Womack however blew Mr. Bushling off, and now he’s telling this story in a video posted on youtube.
I had a phone conversation with Mr. Bushling after I saw the video, and he gave me some more information:
Mr. Bushling says that he caught the Congressman’s office for help getting information from the military that could help in locating his son’s body. (Mr. Bushling believes his son to be deceased by this point.) He was assured by Womack’s office that the Congressman was a military man and cared about the troops, etc., and that the staff would talk to Womack about the case. He was later informed by the office that Womack himself had said he could not help Mr. Bushling and that what he needed to do was hire an attorney. Mr. Bushling took their advice, called back after the attorney had done all he could do for him, and was told by Womack’s staff that they couldn’t talk to him as he had hired a lawyer. Think about that, he did exactly what they told him to do and then said that his Congressman and his staff couldn’t talk to him because he had followed their advice!
Now let’s get one thing straight here, Womack and his staff can talk to Mr. Bushling. Just because he hired a lawyer to get some information doesn’t mean his congressman can’t talk to him. That’s total bullshit. Mr. Bushling realized that too and decided he wasn’t going to take it lying down. He printed up fliers that read “Why won’t Congressman Womack help find my son?”.
After being assured that an event being held at the Russellville high school was open to the public and that there shouldn’t be a problem with him handing out political pamphlets, Mr. Bushling showed up and distributed the pamphlets, only to be told by the police that he had to leave. So much for free speech. Not wanting to be arrested, Mr. Bushling did so, and bumped into Congressman Womack on his way out the door. In a phone conversation, Mr. Bushling informed me that Womack didn’t even recognize his name and asked him who he represented. When he reminded him of his son Womack hastily said that he couldn’t help him and when Mr. Bushling expressed his irritation at that told him he was off base. Then he proceeded to walk away and began his speech in which he had the audacity to say that in the army you learn to never leave a man behind.
I can't speak to all the details of the army investigation, but I do know this. When a friend of mine was having trouble getting his deceased grandfather's records and medals from the army he called our old Congressman (Marion Berry, AR-01) and the congressman's office worked with him dillegently over the course of a week to get them. You would think that a lost son of a military family would be an even higher priority for a U.S. Congressman, or at the very least that Congressman wouldn't give his father advice and then refuse to talk to him after he followed it. Or hell, for that matter, with something like this you'd think a Congressman would at least make a point of trying to remember who the guy was.
Congressman Womack has always come off as arrogant. But this kind of thing is in a league of its own. Some of us in Arkansas are trying to get the story out, but we have a rather lazy, right wing media establishment here that isn't going to touch a story critical of a GOP congressman unless it becomes something they can't ignore. So if you would, please spread this around and help us get the word out. Also, the Bushling family has a facebook page up devoted to their missing son, and I know for a fact they'd appreciate any kind words you could offer.
Lastly, before someone asks, Womack does have a surprisingly top notch opponentfor next year, Iraq/Afghanistan veteran Ken Aden. It's a really tough district though (which is probably one reason Womack thinks he can do this kind of crap and get away with it) but a lot of observers (myself included) have been surprised at how feisty a campaign Aden is running, certainly a more aggressive and exciting one than we've seen in the district since Bill Clinton ran in 74. And yes, he does have an ActBlue page.
2:08 PM PT: As suggested in the comments, I modified the title to make it a bit more grammatical. Thanks to clio2 for the suggestion.