RONAN – As Christmas of 2010 approached, Lisa Corbett says she couldn’t believe it.
Here was her son, a U.S. Marine from Ronan gravely wounded in an explosion in Afghanistan on Dec. 11, lying in a military hospital bed in Bethesda, Md., missing both of his legs and most of one hand.
There was Montana’s congressional delegation, just a 20-minute Metro ride away on Capitol Hill.
Not a one of the three had reached out to Lance Cpl. Thomas Parker in any way, Corbett says, much less made the short trip to visit him in the hospital.
“I was pissed,” Corbett says. “I wrote all three of them a nasty email. It was close to the holidays and Congress was getting ready to break for Christmas. I told them, we don’t get to go home for Christmas like you do. Not one of you has made an effort to come and see us.”
The only one who made the trip, in the wake of that email, will roll out a new television campaign ad in Montana’s heated U.S. Senate race Monday featuring Corbett and her husband, Tim, who is Parker’s stepfather.
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has not only visited Parker on multiple occasions since Lisa wrote her email, the Corbetts say, he’s successfully gone to bat for the family over several issues they’ve encountered during Parker’s recovery.
“There have been numerous occasions where we hit a brick wall on non-medical issues,” Lisa Corbett says. “I’d just call Senator Tester, and he’d get things done, not just for us, but for other military families in the same situation. They learned to believe me when I told them, ‘I’m not afraid to sic my senator on you.’ ”
Lisa Corbett says she believes Tester’s Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, may have tried to call Parker once after she fired off her emails and while Parker was still at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.
“Tomy didn’t recognize the number so he didn’t answer it,” she says, “and Rehberg never tried back. I do know that while we were in Bethesda, Tester is the only one who took the time to come see Tomy. They really hit it off, and have been friends since.”
Rehberg spokesman Jed Link said the congressman’s staff in Montana did contact Parker’s family in Montana, “to make sure if there was anything they needed, we’d step up and help,” Link said.
“We try to be as responsive as possible, without being intrusive,” Link added. Rehberg did respond to a letter he received from Lisa Corbett concerning veterans’ issues, Link said.
Tim Corbett says the ad isn’t meant to, nor does it, bash Rehberg. The Corbetts just recognize the extra effort Tester has gone to on behalf of Parker.
“It’s no disrespect to Rehberg or his people,” Corbett says. “I just know who’s sat in our house, who’s made the phone calls, who took the trip to the hospital in Washington to see Thomas. That’s all I’m looking at.”
The third member of Montana’s delegation, U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, requested an American flag be flown over the U.S. Capitol for a day in Parker’s honor. Baucus then sent the flag to the Marine, which Parker said meant a lot to him.
The ad featuring the Corbetts is the seventh to be aired by Tester’s campaign prior to the June 5 primary, and the latest to tout his work in the Senate on behalf of America’s veterans.
In the television spot, Lisa Corbett explains what happened to her son in Afghanistan and says Tester reached out to the Marine and his family.
“No reporters, just Jon making sure Tomy had the care he deserved,” Tim Corbett says in the ad. “Throughout Tomy’s rehabilitation, Jon kept calling, motivating him.”
“We know that’s what Montanans do for each other. For Tomy, it’s made a difference,” Lisa adds.
Tester’s campaign asked the Corbetts if they would be willing to film the commercial.
“They wanted Tomy,” Lisa says, “but he’s on active duty in the military so he couldn’t. So they asked if Tim and I would speak on Tomy’s behalf.”
Since that initial meeting in Bethesda, Tester has met with Parker at least three times when the Marine has been home on leave from San Diego, where he continues his recovery at the National Naval Medical Center.
“It’s never been a photo-op,” Tim Corbett says.
“When he does, it’d be like you and I sitting and talking,” Lisa Corbett says. “There’s never any press. He’s doing it because he cares about Tomy.”
The only one present at the meetings with a camera has been Lisa, and it was the images and video taken by Parker’s mother that are used in the campaign ad, including pictures of the Marine and senator shaking hands in Parker’s Bethesda hospital room, and the two visiting in the new wheelchair-accessible addition built for Parker at the family home in Ronan.
Lisa Corbett says she’s an independent voter who will be voting for both Republicans and Democrats in the general election this fall.
“I vote for whoever I think will do the best job for the people, and aren’t in it for their own pocketbooks,” she says.
The TV spot was filmed in early March, when Lisa and Tomy were home on Tomy’s leave.
“At first I was all nerves,” Lisa says. “But the more takes they did, the more the nerves gave way, and my emotions started coming through.”
The ad ends with video, taken by Lisa, showing Parker learning to walk again on prosthetics at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego.
“Tommy told Jon, the next time he sees him,” Lisa says in the ad’s closing moments, “they’re going to go for a walk.”
Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or at email@example.com.