What You Need to Know About the Army Paratrooper Running for President

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In this Tuesday, May 15, 2018 photo, Richard Ojeda talks at a gym in Logan, W.Va. (AP Photo/John Raby)
In this Tuesday, May 15, 2018 photo, Richard Ojeda talks at a gym in Logan, W.Va. (AP Photo/John Raby)

In the upcoming 2020 election, President Trump may face off against an Army combat veteran who helped vote him into office.

West Virginia State Sen. Richard Neece Ojeda II, a retired Army major, announced his intention on Monday to run on the Democratic ticket in the next presidential election. Since then, many news stories have described Ojeda as a former paratrooper, but offered few other details about the 21 years he spent in uniform.

Ojeda, 48, served as a "general engineer and bridge crewmember in the Army from April 1990 to August 1993; in the West Virginia Army National Guard from September 1993 to May 1995; and in the Army from May 1997 to December 2013," according to a statement Army spokeswoman Elizabeth Chamberlain provided to Military.com.

Out of his four deployments, three were to combat zones. Ojeda deployed to Iraq from November 2004 to October 2005 and from July 2007 to January 2008. He deployed to Haiti from January 2010 to March 2010, the year the Caribbean nation sustained a devastating hurricane and the U.S. military provided months of humanitarian aid. He then deployed to Afghanistan from October 2010 to October 2011, according to Army records.

Ojeda was awarded a Combat Action Badge, but the limited records the Army released did not say whether he earned his CAB in Iraq or Afghanistan.

In addition, Ojeda earned a Master Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Sapper Tab and Diver and Mechanic Badge (wheeled vehicle).

Army records show Ojeda also received the following awards:

Bronze Star Medal (2nd award); Meritorious Service Medal (2nd award); Army Commendation Medal (7th award); Army Achievement Medal (5th award); Army Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal (2nd award); Afghanistan Campaign Medal with 2 campaign stars; Iraq Campaign Medal with campaign star; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Korean Defense Service Medal; Armed Forces Service Medal; Humanitarian Service Medal; Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal; Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon (4th award); NATO Medal; Meritorious Unit Commendation (3rd award) and Army Superior Unit Award.

The Army did not provide the units Ojeda served in during his career.

After retiring from the Army, Ojeda co-founded a nonprofit group that gave shoe vouchers to schoolchildren and provided meals to the poor and elderly, according to the Associated Press.

A relatively new face in politics, he lost a 2014 primary race for the U.S. House of Representatives before being elected to the West Virginia senate in 2016, the AP reported.

But before being elected in 2016, Ojeda was brutally beaten at a Sunday barbeque by a man he claimed to have known all of his life, NBC News reported May 8, 2016. Ojeda, who was beaten unconscious, said witnesses told him Jonathan Porter kicked and struck with him with brass knuckles, NBC reported.

Local police found no evidence of the weapon, but Ojeda suffered eight bone fractures and three lacerations to his face, as well as exterior swelling to his head, NBC News reported.

Porter pleaded guilty to beating Ojeda in 2016, and in 2017, a judge sentenced him to serve one to five years in prison and pay a fine of $500, according to a report by WSAZ News Channel 3.

Ojeda lost his most recent election Nov. 6, a bid for West Virginia's 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House, according to Newsweek.

Ojeda has been a Democrat ever since he first registered to vote, but he voted for Trump in 2016 because he believed his party had "lost touch with their roots," according to the article in Newsweek.

"The Democratic Party is supposed to be the party that fights for the working class, and that's exactly what I do. I will stand with unions wholeheartedly, and that's the problem -- the Democratic Party wants to say that, but their actions do not mirror that," Ojeda said, according to the Newsweek report.

Ojeda told Politico Magazine in March that he now regrets voting for Trump "because he hasn't done s---."

Ojeda earned a bachelor's degree in general education from West Virginia State University in 1997, and a master's in business and organizational security from Weber University in 2010, according to Votesmart.org.

Ojeda's favorite books are "Blood on the Risers: An Airborne Soldier's Thirty-five Months in Vietnam: by John Lepplemann, "Biggest Brother: The Life Of Major Dick Winters, The Man Who Led The Band of Brothers" by Larry Alexander and "About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior" by Col. David Hackworth, according to Votesmart.org.

His favorite movies, according to the site, are "Saving Private Ryan," "Glory,"" Hamburger Hill," "Black Hawk Down," "Platoon," and " Stalag 17."

And Ojeda's favorite quote, according to Votesmart.org, is "Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way!"

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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