Today, the percentage of military veterans in the United States Congress is at its lowest rate since World War II. According to a report by CNN, only 20 percent of the 535 members of the new Congress have served in the military, 25 from the Senate and 90 from the House of Representatives. Compare that to the Congress of 1975, where 70 percent of the members were military veterans.
Does this matter at all? It stands to reason that people who have no experience in a matter are less prepared to understand and vote on that matter than someone with experience. For one thing, those who have been exposed to the horrors of war know very well what they are sending young men and women into, should they chose to vote for war or to fund wars. They understand the psychology, motivations, stresses, and hopes of military men and women better than someone who is without a similar experience.
It matters in the Oval Office too. Eleven presidents in the nation’s history saw no military service, although since 1950, only two did not serve in any capacity. While it is not a requirement that a person serving as Commander-in-Chief of the world’s most powerful military be a military veteran, it does seem to make good common sense.
In 2011 the U. S. Defense budget was near $665 billion. By comparison, the 2015 Homeland Security budget request was $38.2 billion. Big bucks are spent on defending the nation from foreign threats and providing for, training, and equipping the country’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.
Why so few veterans in office? Well, the fact that the draft ended in 1973 surely has something to do with fewer Americans participating in the nation’s military. Still, there are millions of veterans around the nation that have leadership skills, managerial experience, and have learned that the enemy is not the guy (or gal) in the other political party.
It is also possible that many veterans just no longer see politics as an honorable profession. The Gallup Poll reported only days ago that the approval rating of Congress is at a dismal 16 percent. Whereas the military places a great deal of importance on the concept of honor, entry into the political realm seems, to many, to be anything but honorable.
In bygone days, typing students all learned to type, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” With the crushing debt load, with the threat of terror on all sides, with confidence in elected leaders at such a low ebb, perhaps it is time for that honorable and good category of men and women — the military veterans — to step up one more time.
The nation needs leaders. The states need honorable people. The local communities need competent leadership. Veterans are a giant pool of largely untapped talent.[David Epps is the founding rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King in Sharpsburg, GA and the Bishop Ordinary for the Diocese of the Mid-South (Tennessee and Georgia) for the Charismatic Episcopal Church. He is also the associate endorser for U. S. military chaplains.]