Former Congressman Blasts Washington for Denial of Benefits for Service Members Killed During Government Shutdown

Charles Djou is a citizen soldier, elected to Congress in spring 2010. He voted to reauthorize the war in Afghanistan, then lost his seat in Congress in the fall of 2010. He then was deployed to the war in Afghanistan and then lost a bid to retake his old seat.

Djou, now 43, is outraged that fellow soldiers killed in Afghanistan received no death benefits because they were killed during the government shutdown of October 2013.

This past October there were four service members who were killed in Afghanistan. They died serving in Kandahar Province. They died serving outside Forward Operating Base Pasab. Now, I know service members unfortunately die all the time, but this was significant to me because I served at Forward Operating Base Pasab. ... They died when an IED hit their vehicle, a land mine hit their vehicle. I rode over the very same road that those service members died upon, so it was very personal as well. But what was even more tragic to me was the fact that these service members didn't get any death benefits, or their families, they didn't get the benefits. They weren't returned home. They didn't receive a military funeral. And the reason they didn't was because they just happened to die during the government shutdown. And I think for me, it hit me very personal that is what is the result of dysfunctional government.

2014-04-22-DjouKickOffHUFFPOST.jpgHe denounced the partisan politics that have led to this kind of government failure. "That could have been me," he said as he embraced his wife tighter. "The people of Hawaii and our nation deserve better."

Djou is a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve and served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan during the surge of coalition forces in 2011-12, according to his website. He was deployed with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team/10th Mountain Infantry Division at Forward Operating Base Pasab in Kandahar Province. That year he quickly launched his campaign right before being deployed.

A Republican, Djou is running in the most liberal state in the nation, hoping to represent Hawaii's first congressional district, which encompasses most of the Honolulu metro area on the island of Oahu, where President Obama grew up. Democrat Colleen Hanabusa, who defeated Republican incumbent Djou in 2010, is giving up the seat to run in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate against incumbent Sen. Brian Schatz. 2014-04-22-CharlesDjouwithTimLussierHUFFPOST.jpgHawaii's other seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is held by Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, who serves as a Military Police Company Commander in the Hawaii Army National Guard.

Djou has made supporting the military a key platform plank in his previous campaigns but says the death of his fellow soldiers during the government shutdown was the final straw that led him to seek public office again.

"It's not about winning," he said. "Our government today is failing us. We need leaders who will fight for our country, our children and our future."

In his kickoff press release, Djou announced:

Government should work to make the lives of local people better, but I am disappointed that government at all levels today isn't listening and isn't working. Things have gone from bad to worse and we need to change the leadership in Hawaii and Washington.

When I spoke with him, he identified what he thinks is wrong with Washington, D.C.:

[W]e have a government that places higher concern on making political points instead of looking out for what's in the best interests of the people. My candidacy will be all about placing service before self, about putting principles ahead of parties. I think that's missing in our government today, at all levels, and that's what this campaign is going to be focusing on. That's why I'm running for office.