By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily
If Congress is not willing to declare war in the Middle East, Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, wants America to bring home its troops.
“This is ridiculous,” Lindholm said. “We’ve been over there for more than a decade, and we don’t really know why.”
By relying on an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in the Middle East instead of an actual war declaration, Lindholm said Congress has denied service members the clarity they need to finish the job — whatever that may be.
“The reality is, when it comes to the Middle East, we don’t actually have authority to be over there from our Congress,” Lindholm said. “We’re operating off an AUMF from 2001 and 2002. The AUMF of 2001 was to go after terrorists in Afghanistan, and in 2002, it was to be ready to go after Iraq. But none of those speak to full-time occupation.”
As the country moves into its 19th year of combat operations in Afghanistan, Lindholm said enough is enough.
“We need to end the endless wars,” he said, echoing sentiments voiced by President Donald Trump. “I’ve got four kids, and none of them have ever known a nation not at war.”
In a column co-written by Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, and published across the country, Lindholm called out U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, and other “war hawks” for encouraging Trump to retaliate against Iran after a U.S. drone was shot down earlier this year.
Additionally, Lindholm is leading the Wyoming branch of Bring Our Troops Home, a non-profit organization intent on ending “the Forever Wars and encourage Congress … to support President Trump’s plan to withdraw our troops.”
Raised in Sundance, Lindholm joined the U.S. Navy to see the world and find his place in it.
“I wasn’t really ready to be a grown up, but I knew I needed to get something going in my life,” he explained. “I left two days after I graduated high school.”
It was May 2001. The U.S. was at peace. The world was a different place.
“I remember training in Pensacola, Florida, before 9/11 — taxi cabs would pull right up to base,” Lindholm recalled. “Then after the attacks, things really shut down. It changed the whole mission going from peacetime to wartime.”
A helicopter mechanic who exited the Navy at the rank of Petty Officer Third Class five years later, Lindholm never deployed to the Middle East, but he did see a side of the world he never imagined.
“We were headed to go shake our sword at North Korea in the 2004 timeframe, and we rolled into Hong Kong on Christmas,” he said of his time stationed aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. “While we were there, this tsunami struck Indonesia — it was a hell of wreck.”
His ship was to diverted to help with rescue and relief efforts.
“We were first on scene there,” Lindholm said. “I remember we were still 50 miles out from our destination, and I was on the flight deck with the rest of the crew.”
The sailors spotted a bloated, sun-bleached body floating near a palm tree, he remembered.
“We were shocked, but the ship just kept on a-steaming,” Lindholm said. “We were asking why we weren’t stopping for the body, but then as soon we got into position we could see why. There was 200,000 people that died in that tsunami and there were bodies everywhere. More than you could count.”
Using the carrier’s helicopters, the Lincoln’s crew spent months resupplying the Banda Aceh province with fresh water, rice and medical supplies. Shortly after Lindholm’s ship returned to the states, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
“We were, at that point, the Navy’s rescue and relief experts,” Lindholm said. “So, my squadron got deployed to respond to (Katrina).”
Whereas the Indonesians welcomed the Navy’s response, the U.S. was a different story.
“The people of Indonesia were just so damn thankful,” Lindholm said. “When we deployed to Katrina, there were people shooting at our aircraft, it was nuts. They definitely weren’t thankful we were there.”
Getting mad, getting political
Once his enlistment was complete, Lindholm moved to Texas to work on U.S. Army helicopters as a civilian contractor, but it wasn’t long before Wyoming called him home.
“It was around 2006-2007, and things were really cooking off in northeast Wyoming,” he said. “So, I figured I’d return home to the ranch and find a job.”
Using the electrical expertise he gained in the military, Lindholm went to work as an electrician. But the more he learned about the way of the world, the more it got under his skin.
“Honestly, I just got mad,” Lindholm explained, chuckling. “When I was in the military, I didn’t really think about what I was doing, I just did what I was told. Then I got out, and I really got to thinking about the things I didn’t like, especially in relation to the family ranch, so I became politically involved to change them.”
Now in his second term as a state legislator, Lindholm serves as the House Majority Whip.
“To be 100 percent honest, I thought I was going to be whipped off into the corner,” he said. “But, when I got in there, I realized these are just normal folks like me.”
He campaigned on the idea people should be allowed to drink raw milk if they choose and sponsored Wyoming’s “food freedom law,” which passed in 2015. Since then, he’s also helped craft legislation facilitating blockchain businesses and banking.
Now, he’s shifting focus to either bring troops deployed in the Middle East home or pass a law in Wyoming hamstringing Congress’ access to the state’s National Guard units.
“This legislation would prevent our guard from being deployed to a foreign place where war has not been declared,” Lindholm explained. “It’ll appear in the 2020 session, and I’ve got bipartisan support on it.”
Working with the other side of the aisle to legitimize or end the nation’s war efforts has been trickier than he expected.
“Before 2008, I could always lean on the democrats to be anti-war,” Lindholm said. “Now, we’re kind of stuck in this weird spot where Democrats and Republicans don’t really know how to feel about these wars. It’s a weird shift.”
As a state representative, Lindholm doesn’t have the power to force Congress’ hand, but he said he hopes Bring the Troops Home will ignite a national conversation.
“We want Congress to think about it, we want them to talk about it, and we want them to vote on it,” Lindholm said. “We owe it to the next generation, because that’s who’s going to be serving over there next. That’s who is serving over there now.”