February 7th, 2013
08:20 AM ET

Congress has fewer stripes

By Lisa Desjardins, CNN

Follow on Twitter: @LisaDCNN

Editor's Note: Listen to the full story in our player above, and join the conversation in our comments section below.

(CNN) – The 113th Congress has set records for diversity with a record number of women and minorities, the first Buddhist, and Hindu members of Congress and the first open bisexual.

But the number of military veterans? At a modern low.

Seth Lynn, a Marine veteran and director of George Washington University's Center for Second Service, which focuses on training and promoting veterans, says this year's numbers mean the fewest veterans in Congress since World War II.

The percentage of veterans in Congress is still higher than the U.S. population at large, and some argue that the veterans elected reflect more diversity, including the first two female combat veterans to serve in Congress.

The downside? Some fear that fewer veterans changes the discussion of military issues, with non-veterans less able to understand and less eager to question military proposals.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-MN, is a 24-year veteran of the Army National Guard. "I always say this to the military and Veteran's Administration; I’ll be their staunchest supporter but I’m also their harshest critic. Cause I know when they get it wrong."

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soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Art

    World's greatest draft dodger served under Geo.Bush.

    February 11, 2013 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  2. Theresa

    They haven't been allowed to join the discussion because, historically, politicians with military experience tend to spend LESS on defense budgets. The Republicans simply cannot have that.

    February 7, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mary

    They have already given to this country – why would they want to join the clowns in DC

    February 7, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. dan

    I doubt that many veterns can afford to run for congress. Nowdays with the cost of running a campaign in the millions only the rich can afford to run for congress. And remember our politicians passed all these campaign laws where if they get reelected the taxpayer has to reimburse them for their campaign expenses but if they lose then they have to do the reimbusing. So it makes it real hard to beat the incumbent that has been on the taxpayer teat for many many years.

    February 7, 2013 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  5. Tuckersdad

    We have a professional army now. I was in the drafted army, and yes was in the combat infantry. The rabid neocons got us into a whole lot of crap with their false bravado. They were all gutless nonveterans.
    We desperately need veterans in Congress in order to avoid repeating those same mistakes. Veterans will serve, and hopefully still retain the courage to make the tough calls. Enough of this two herd stampede. Guts and brains are the future if there is one. Veterans have both.

    February 7, 2013 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  6. Valkyrie

    @ AngryPeasant: So, what's your point? We should be more like Greece (ancient)?

    I disagree. This is important news. As a veteran and member of the American Legion, I know how important it is to veterans to have others who understand them standing behind them. The fact there are far fewer veterans in Congress today is important to know. As I and my Legionaries know too well, people who have never served are less likely to advocate for those who have. What advocacy they do show, although welcome, is often fleeting and a function of the patriotic enthusiasm associated with the "guerre de jour".

    I also take issue with your statement about the majority of post-WWII members of Congress being "draft dodgers". This statement reflects disrespect upon the post-WWII veterans in Congress as well. Most congressmen and women have high respect for each other, political differences aside. In fact, many of the new congressmen are younger than the Vietnam generation, the last war where we had a draft. In light of that fact, I suggest you be more specific with your criticism about exactly which congressmen you are referring to. The statement, "Most of them are draft-dodgers" is needlessly divisive, and disrespectful. It only serves to hinder productive communication, and hurt the cause of veterans and their advocates like you and me.

    February 7, 2013 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • AngryPeasant

      @Valkyrie I meant, in regards to the news, that this has been trending for well over decade. I do mean to disparage those that dodged the Vietnam era draft and then proceeded to spend their political careers wars advocating for one war after another. There is nothing honourable or decent in that behavior. The appropriate term is indeed yellow-bellied chickenhawk, and frankly, for those folks out there that are offended by that...if the shoe fits, wear it. I do agree that veterans advocacy is somewhat endangered. However, I am more concerned over the needless creation of new veterans.
      I do indeed believe that it would be better for the country if individuals that voted for military action were also forced to go experience it or at the various least help pay for it. Would that not be an improvement?

      February 7, 2013 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • dan

      Take Clinton for example.

      February 7, 2013 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  7. AngryPeasant

    This is not news, the greatest generation has now been fully replaced by the draft-dodger generation. It is rather harmful to have folks in Congress making decisions on hostile foreign actions who are completely removed from any of the risks incurred. As a veteran, I cringe everytime I see or hear elected representatives talking "tough", as by and large they are entitled, privileged, yellow-bellied-chickenhawks whom would not know sacrifice for one's country if it jumped right up and bit them.
    In my opinion, the Founding Fathers made a crucial error in not implementing an important feature of ancient Athens or Republican Rome ( many were classicists that used these entities as models to help re-create a democracy). When the elites of the aforementioned entities decided upon war, they and their families were then exposed to the direct physical and financial risks incurred by those decisions. How many wars and actions would not have happened in American history if those that ultimately voted upon them were forced to risk life and limb?

    February 7, 2013 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • ironman59

      The fact that we don't have a bunch of veterans is a positive. It means that over time we are getting fewer & fewer conflicts though in about 15 years todays vets will probably be Congress. The reality is that those not in combat are less likely to put others into harms way. The more combat veterans we have, the more we seem to have armed conflict in this country.

      February 7, 2013 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
      • Jim

        I think you've got that whole thing backwards, not surprising for people who have never served. People who have seen the results of our lost battles in Korea, Viet Nam, Mogadishu, Iraq, and Pakistan would never send anyone into battle when the public has no will to win. The ones who send our youth into the grinder of war are almost always the old men who have never served or who have never had loved ones in harms way.

        February 7, 2013 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
        • Art


          February 11, 2013 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
      • AngryPeasant

        You have fallen into a bit of a logical fallacy. There are indeed less veterans precisely because there is no longer compulsory military service. The Congress and Executive that have given us over TWENTY years of cumulative warfare, have been presided over by non-veterans. Mostly folks who dodged the draft during the Vietnam era or were born between conflicts. Do you not think thereare moral and ethical issues with folks more than willing to risk other people and peoples children lives, limbs, physical comfort, and mental stability when they and theirs do not?
        Do you not think it a bit wrong that over the past decade only a fraction of our population have been called upon to sacrifice whilst everyone else were completely isolated from the harsh reality of war? Do you not think it is poisonous that those who know nothing of war constantly make decisions upon it? The fact is, the longest period of war in our history has been decided upon largely by priviliged, entitled, yellow-bellied chickenhawks. Just take a look at both parties and particularly the composition of Congress and the Executive branch in 2001 and 2002. Furthermore, forget the direct physical jeopardy, and ponder upon why, with all this warfare, has NO TAX been raised to support it. Not only will non-veterans constantly decide upon military action, they also will not pay for it.

        February 7, 2013 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
      • Combat Veteran

        Ironman59 – you are sorely misinformed if you believe that combat veterans would ever want our young men and women to be put in harms way for less than substantiated reasons. History shows that it's combat veterans who stand up against the war mongers who have never seen combat. We know the horrors of the battlefield and would not dream of putting anyone's children into harms way. History also shows it is the non veterans who are most likely to send our youth into combat first.

        February 7, 2013 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
      • DogFace

        It seems you may be looking through the lens of history in an attempt to predict the future… few get that right. In my opinion, your logic is flawed. Our military – active and reserve force - is a national instrument. We should have leaders that understand our military well, and ensure it is focused and ready… if needed. Those that have fought in the defense or our Nation know the brutality and savagery associated. In theory, they will only use that instrument when no other option is available. It’s my belief that leaders make better choices when they know what they’re doing… through experience. Having a few more members of congress with military experience is not bad for our Country. For the record, I hope for a ready and capable force that never needs to be used in combat.

        February 7, 2013 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
      • Crash 14

        Military War Veterans, like myself, who have served under harsh conditions like 140 F heat, bullets, bombs, rocket fire, and mortar fire, would not wish that on our worst enemy. Not just the immediate effects of what it does to you, but the long term effects. I don't regret my time in the military, 20-years, but I do regret what the cost of war was to me. I've lost myself, almost lost my family, and I'll probably be on medication the rest of my life. Wars are not demanded by those who have seen battle, they are pushed by those who haven't. While those who haven't seen it send troops like me into harm's way, they sit back in their cushy chairs, smoking cigars, and meeting the "boys" at a bar for a drink.

        February 7, 2013 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
      • Chris

        The problem with no draft is the repeated deployments of those now serving creating extreme hardships are the serviceman and there familes. Than when they finnish their service to the country, those politicans who sent them off to fight, wrap themselves in the flag (to get relected) could care less about them and we see the social problems that effect veterans.

        February 7, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greenspam

      What draft dodging? There is no draft for the 2 Iraq Wars.

      February 7, 2013 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |