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Lack of military service by Romney scrutinized

On a stage crowded with war heroes, Mitt Romney recently praised the sacrifice "of the great men and women of every generation who serve in our armed services."

It is a sacrifice the Republican presidential candidate did not make.

Though an early supporter of the Vietnam War, Romney avoided military service at the height of the fighting after high school by seeking and receiving four draft deferments, according to Selective Service records. They included college deferments and a 31-month stretch as a "minister of religion" in France, a classification for Mormon missionaries that the church at the time feared was being overused.

President Obama, Romney's opponent in this year's campaign, did not serve in the military, either. The Democrat, 50, was a child during the Vietnam War and did not enlist when he was older.

But because Romney, now 65, was of draft age during the Vietnam era, his military background -- or, rather, his lack of one -- is facing new scrutiny as he courts veterans and makes his case to the nation to be commander in chief.

As a presidential candidate in 2007, Romney told the Boston Globe he was frustrated, as a Mormon missionary, not to be fighting alongside his countrymen.

"I was supportive of my country," Romney said. "I longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country there, and in some ways it was frustrating not to feel like I was there as part of the troops that were fighting in Vietnam."

Indeed, Romney strongly supported the war at first. As a freshman at Stanford University, he protested anti-war activists.

But the frustration he recalled in 2007 does not match a sentiment he shared as a U.S. Senate candidate from Massachusetts in 1994, when he told the Boston Herald, "I was not planning on signing up for the military."

"It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam, but nor did I take any actions to remove myself from the pool of young men who were eligible for the draft," Romney told the newspaper.

But that's exactly what Romney did, according Selective Service records.