If you’ve seen a video of a guy in a “VETERAN” tee shirt, butchering “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” in a Top Gun reenactment, floating around the internet in the past couple of days, there are two things you should know: 1. Maj. Dan Helmer is actually in the Army, and 2. He knows it’s bad, and it’s on purpose.

Helmer, 35, is a reserve intelligence officer who spent 11 years on active duty, with one deployment each in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he wants to be the Democratic congressman from Virginia’s 10th District.

“It‘s an iconic scene, one in which we could have a little fun and be in on the joke ourselves,” he told Army Times in a Tuesday phone interview. “I’m no fighter pilot and the last thing that anybody wants to do is fly on an airplane with me at the stick.”

And the jacket has an Army patch on it, he added.

The video is meant to call out current 10th District Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock, whom Helmer sees in a bar and serenades her with a ditty about “losing that centrist feeling.”

“We have a representative right now who refuses to meet constituents and answer their questions in an open forum,” Helmer said. “It’s a serious issue but one in which we thought a little levity could go a long way toward highlighting it.”

Army Reserve Maj. Dan Helmer is running for Congress in Virginia's 10th district (Photo courtesy Helmer for Congress).
Army Reserve Maj. Dan Helmer is running for Congress in Virginia's 10th district (Photo courtesy Helmer for Congress).

Helmer graduated from West Point in 2003 and started out as an armor officer. He served with the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004, earned a master’s degree at the University of Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship, deployed again with the 1st Infantry Division in Afghanistan in 2007, then spent three years in South Korea.

After moving back stateside, Helmer said, he decided to leave active duty for his family. 

“At the end of the day, the thing that made me move over to the reserves instead, is that I’m married, I have two kids, my wife is a public school teacher,” he said. “I recognized the challenges of a military spouse and a dual-career family.”

So he went to work on government strategy  for the Boston Consulting Group in 2014, keeping a position in the reserves. But the last presidential election inspired him to return to public service.

“I was devastated at the state of our politics and shocked at the outcome of the election,” he said. “I’m the son of an immigrant, I’m the grandson of [Holocaust] refugees, and my wife and I want the country that welcomed us here to still be here for our sons.”

Helmer’s website outlines 10 issue positions, from “safety and security” to “women’s health,” “an inclusive society” and “constitutional government.”

“In the military we put mission first and there’s a real opportunity to carry mission first and the dedication to politics and our country that’s been absent for many years,” he said. “We have a sacred obligation to take care of those who have served. And as a congressman I will make sure that we honor that.”

The 2018 election is more than a year off, though, so in the meantime he’ll be talking to constituents and preparing a campaign platform that serves their needs, he said.

And as a follow-up, Helmer’s campaign released a second video on Tuesday, asking for donations to encourage more campaigning and less singing.