STAFFORD TOWNSHIP — Mayor John Spodofora, whose Vietnam War military record was disputed earlier this month by a political rival, admitted Tuesday night that he never served in the country.
“My feet were not in Vietnam,” Spodofora said, after being greeted by applause at the council meeting.
It was the first regular council meeting since Martha Kremer — a township resident, former township employee and president of the township Republican Club — raised questions about Spodofora’s military service after announcing she was running for office.
Kremer, who has accused Spodofora of embellishing his Navy record, sat in the front row at the meeting. She had questioned whether or not Spodofora actually served in Vietnam during the war, and the validity of the Medal of Valor award he received from Safari Club International in Arizona in 2008.
Military-service records obtained by Kremer — and provided to The Press of Atlantic City — show that Spodofora enlisted in the U.S. Navy on July 12, 1966, and was discharged on July 6, 1973.
Township resident Earl Galloway, a retired Navy veteran who said he was discharged in 2009, said Kremer is merely seeking the truth.
“I have reached out to the mayor and have asked him to provide what the truth is. Mrs. Kremer has done nothing wrong. All she is doing is seeking the truth. For Mrs. Kremer to be persecuted and attacked via the media for seeking the truth is not right,” Galloway said.
Galloway asked Spodofora to say whether or not he was in Vietnam during the war. After Spodofora answered, Galloway then asked that he apologize to Kremer. Spodofora rose to apologize and shook Kremer’s hand.
At the start of the council meeting, Spodofora read from a statement. He said much of what he has said over the past month regarding his military duties and missions should not have been said.
On the other side of the council chambers, two front rows were occupied by members of the Stafford Township American Legion. The members wore their American Legion jackets and hats and clapped along with the rest of the crowd Tuesday as Spodofora and the council members took their seats on the dais.
“We’re here to support him,” Stafford Township American Legion Commander Douglas Voorhis Jr. said. “I just wanted to say we’re very proud to have (Spodofora) as a member of our post and as a veteran.”
Kremer said Spodofora’s embellishment of his military record steals valor from her husband, Vietnam veteran Kirk Kremer, who died in 2007 as a result of injuries suffered during the war.
Spodofora, 66, who has served on council since 1988, has maintained that he cannot discuss much of his military service because it remains classified, although he has requested that the U.S. Navy declassify the records.
“First and foremost, I have said and implied things that I should not have said. For that, I need to humbly apologize to anyone who was misled,” he said. “I take full responsibility for any misinformation associated with my military record. Again, I deeply regret anything I said or did that was not correct or factual.”
Spodofora said he will no longer reply to any inquiries regarding his military service. He thanked the American Legion and much of the crowd who came to support him at the meeting.
Councilman Robert Kusznikow spoke to the public about Spodofora at the close of the meeting.
“I know John is an honest, incredible human being and cares about this town and what he does. For anyone to keep putting the pressure on him is a terrible thing to do. I don’t know what the purpose was in doing what they did,” said Kusznikow, who also is Vietnam veteran.
Township resident Sal Sorce said that since Spodofora took over the reins from ousted former Mayor John McMenamin, he has shined and helped the community.
“This stuff should have never been in the paper. It was something that could have been discussed behind closed doors between gentlemen. The timing of it was an abomination while we’re picking candidates,” Sorce said.
Township resident Steve Miller told Spodofora that he was an honorable man and he doesn’t care what he did during the war because he sacrificed seven years of his life.
“I don’t care what anyone says about you. Anyone who did what they did to you is an outrage. In the amount of years that you have been here, you’re the only one qualified to do this job. You have the expertise and knowledge and you’re able to put it forth without complications and bickering,” Jones said.
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