Why Politics Matters: Youth and Politics Essay Activity

Why Politics Matters: Youth and Politics Essay Activity
Read the account on Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in Congress, and then write a three to five paragraph essay in response to the following questions.

Is military experience an important characteristic for politicians?
Should Congressional representatives be allowed to serve concurrently in the National Guard or in other armed forces?

Why Politics Matters
Youth and Politics: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans in Congress
As the percentage of the American population with military experience declines, the number of veterans serving in Congress has also declined. In 1970, more than 13% of Americans were military veterans; that number has declined to 7% today. In the 95th Congress (1977–78), approximately 77% of members of the House and the Senate had served in the military. In the 114th Congress, that has dropped to 19%. Additionally, the profile of the veterans serving in Congress has changed. The majority of veterans in Congress are from the Vietnam era. However, in the 114th Congress, more than twenty of the one hundred or so veterans in both houses served in post–9/11 conflict areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan; at least eleven of them were elected to Congress for the first time in 2014. In the 2014 elections, more than fifty Iraq and Afghanistan veterans ran for office.

The overall profile of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans serving in Congress is quite diverse. The majority of the veterans of these conflicts serving in the House and all of those serving in the Senate are Republicans. Veterans of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps are all represented. Though they are mostly male and white, they do tend toward the younger end of the spectrum. Their military experiences are also varied, with service in traditional infantry roles, in medical roles, in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) corps as lawyers, and in chaplaincy roles. Many of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in Congress continue to serve in the Reserves or the National Guard.

A notable characteristic of this group of veterans is the presence of the first female combat veterans in the House, Representatives Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who were elected in 2012. Representative Duckworth served as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot in Iraq, where she lost both her legs after her helicopter was shot down. Representative Gabbard served two tours in Iraq, including one combat tour with a field medical unit. Both Duckworth and Gabbard continue to serve with their states’ National Guard. In 2014, the first female combat veteran was elected to the Senate, Joni Ernst (R-IA). Ernst served as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and is still active with the Iowa National Guard.

The presence of veterans in the legislative branch has often been seen to provide a “real world” perspective on policies relating to veterans’ benefits, as well as foreign policy and defense spending. Some see the decline in the presence of veterans in Congress as a negative, fearing that it may limit support for veterans’ initiatives. However, as the proportion of veterans with more recent service increases, some believe that this may enable Congress to respond effectively to the needs of veterans who have seen very different battles than those seen by their predecessors. The increased partisan cohesion and polarization in Congress is also seen as a potential barrier to progress; a member of Congress’s identity as a Democrat or Republican may far outweigh his or her identity as a veteran.


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Why Politics Matters Youth and Politics Essay Activity


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