GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — An Army reservist who spoke up for Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul while in uniform — and landed in trouble for it — is just one of the soldiers getting behind the Texas congressman's campaign.
Plenty of other troops simply send Paul some campaign cash.
Paul is the only Republican who says he'll bring home nearly all U.S. forces if elected, and that could be helping him draw in dollars.
Paul received at least $95,567 from military donors between January and September of last year, the most recent data available, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That's nearly seven times what Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, who edged out Paul in Iowa, collected from military donors combined.
Retired Army Sgt. Thomas Rutherford, whose campaign contribution of $201 hit the threshold for public disclosure under federal election law, believes soldiers started taking a closer look at Paul's opposition to U.S. intervention after experiencing it firsthand.
"He has the firmest grasp on foreign policy of all of them," said Rutherford, 36. "I used to think we're the biggest, best country in the world and we have to go over there and show them how to do it. In the military, I came to the conclusion that the best way how to do it wasn't to use the Army."
Cpl. Jesse Thorsen, who gushed that it was "like meeting a rock star" when he joined Paul on stage wearing his camouflaged fatigues in Iowa this week. That ran afoul of Defense Department rules involving partisan political events, though the military doesn't prohibit soldiers from giving money to candidates.
Thorsen became Paul's best-known supporter in uniform after appearing on the podium at the campaign's Iowa headquarters Tuesday night.
"We don't need to be picking fights overseas and I think everybody knows that, too," he said to loud applause.
Thorsen later told The Associated Press that he believes many troops support Paul.
"A lot more than you would think, absolutely," he said. "And, I think one thing that would help is more people need to stop voting for what they think is best for their party and start voting for what they think is best for their country."
Military rules prohibit soldiers from expressing opinions about candidates while in uniform. Thorsen has stopped giving interviews to news media.
A spokeswoman for the Army Reserve, Maj. Angel Wallace, said Friday that Thorsen's company commander plans to meet with him in coming days to discuss his appearance with Paul while in uniform and to decide whether disciplinary action is required.
Soldiers throwing money behind Paul isn't new. The former Air Force surgeon is one of two veterans in this year's GOP field, along with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who also served in the Air Force. Paul raised more money from military donors in his 2008 presidential run than his rivals in that campaign.
Between January and September, Romney raised $13,300 and Santorum $750 among donors who listed a military affiliation as their employer. Newt Gingrich had $4,900. Paul also outpaced military donations made to President Barack Obama, who had $72,616.