It started perilously with twisted parachute lines and ended three minutes later with a less-than-graceful butt-landing in a muddy field.
But gubernatorial candidate Will T. Scott said it was worth risking his life to bring attention to his plan to help veterans, who he said he was trying to honor by jumping out of an airplane. He has skydived off and on since he attended Army Airborne school in the late 1960s.
“This is about our Kentucky veterans,” he said.
Scott, a Republican who faces three candidates who expect to have much more campaign money than him, said he’s got to resort to stunts like the one Monday at Skydive Kentucky to get attention for his low-budget campaign.
“Well, let me put it this way,” said Scott, wearing a light blue jumpsuit with red stripes on the sleeves throughout his press conference. “I’ve got a story to tell for the men and women who’ve kept us safe for the last 25 years. Would you be here asking me a question if I didn’t jump out of an airplane today?”
It was the second time that Scott, a former Kentucky Supreme Court justice, jumped out of an airplane in a political campaign. He first did it when he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1990.
“Yes, we have to do this sometimes and none of the other candidates can do it,” he said.
Scott, a Vietnam War veteran, said he would run a “veteran-friendly” administration in which he will add new state veterans cemeteries in far Western and southeastern Kentucky and continue giving preferential treatment in hiring to military veterans.
He said the veteran-hiring program is especially important as the military reduces its active-duty rolls following a two-front war in Afghanistan and Iraq. “A lot of these young men and women … there’s going to be a lot of them out of work in Kentucky.”
Additionally, he said he’d work to expand a veterans’ court program that strives to get treatment rather than jail time for veterans who break the law.
“We’re gonna back that program. We’re gonna help in that program. We’ll assist in that program and veterans treatment courts are here to stay, at least in our administration, and I hope forever,” he said.
And while he wouldn’t say who he would name as head of the Kentucky Department for Veterans Affairs, he praised the work of Heather French Henry and said he couldn’t think of anyone better for the job.
Scott said that he also will fight to return Army units to Fort Knox and Fort Campbell that are being moved elsewhere, and that his running mate, Rodney Coffey, will lead a bike ride from Ashland to Paducah this spring to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project.
If elected, Scott said one of his first actions will be to lead veterans who fought in Vietnam and Korea on a march to the state Capitol, saying that it is time for them to “come home.”
Asked why he wouldn’t invite veterans from other wars and conflicts, Scott said they have already been honored. “They’ve all been welcomed home,” he said. “I’m the one who got spit on. I’m the one that got called a baby killer. Korean War veterans didn’t get welcomed home either, ’cause neither of us won the war.”