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Veteran Values – Preserve Them

Posted on Thursday, May 2, 2024
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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12 Comments
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American veteran during The San Fernando Valley Veterans Day Parade

The world is changing – values should not. We are losing WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam-era veterans at an accelerated rate. The values they fought for matter, and must be kept alive. Sadly, federal and state-level representatives seem to miss the point, of what they fought for.

In the US Congress, with 535 seats between the House (435) and Senate (100), a total of 97 veterans from 36 states serve, up by five since 2020, the first bump since 1965 – almost 60 years.

That said, the slide is steady, thinning of veteran ranks is a concern, as Congress decides on national defense and veteran issues. In 1973, three out of four in Congress were vets – no more.

Today, with one percent of the nation on active duty, all veterans just seven percent of us, we are leaning on a few – and they need good representation in Congress and the states.

Not surprisingly, state legislatures are not much better. Why is that?

Reason one: We just have fewer veterans. The original 16 million WWII veterans are now 100,000. Of 6.8 million Korean War vets, a million remain. Of 8.75 million in Vietnam, six million remain. Roughly half a million served in Iraq, and another 775,000 fought in Afghanistan.

Reason one for not enough vets in Congress, state legislatures, and governorships is fewer veterans.

Reason two: Veterans, unlike wealthy and retired or young and ambitious candidates, tend to be middle class, many pension dependent, hard workers who are still working – albeit in the private sector. They are skilled, valuable, and more about mission than self, not have much time for government.

More pointedly, campaigns take money, time, and political support – from somewhere – and many veterans have less of all three, especially the money part. Few went to fancy schools, Wall Street, or got into venture capital. Their networks are patriots, but not necessarily rich.

Like Jimmy Stewart’s character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, veterans tend to be real Americans, focused on values, mission, and nation, caring first about family, home, faith, and time. One reason veterans do not run is few encourage them, and fewer still can underwrite the effort.

Notably, the real Jimmy Stewart flew combat missions in WWII, with genuine heroics. He was a squadron commander before … starring as George Baily in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Third reason:  Beyond lower numbers and less money, many veterans have seen life as it really is, the good, bad, and ugly, and made life and death choices. They look at some politicians as slightly foolish, children playing at real things.

They are often right, not always, but often – inexperienced people asserting knowledge they do not have. Many politicians do not know how much they do not know. Vets know how little they know.

How many politicians do you know who spend on everything but cannot fix their own toilet, clear a sink trap, change the oil in their car, rotate their tires, use a chain saw, let alone service it? 

How many can explain the physics behind a prism, rainbow, or siphon, let alone that solar cell, which they purchased for millions with your money? How many can say why rocker arm covers do not exist in an electric car, or how electricity flows from a car battery, or – honestly – care? They like photo ops, while most vets could care less.

That is the point: Veterans – who have lived, worked, reported, commanded, risked all, lost friends, served because service was real – have less patience for raw, uninformed ambition, mandates issued by those wearing creased pants, people who could not lead their way out of a paper bag.

Okay, enough on that. To do the dirty work of being patient with those who are not, who assert crazy things and ask you to accept it, who often do not listen to learn, is not a selling point. Veterans can do without it.

Fourth reason:  Veterans tend to believe in the idea of staying with what they know, doing what they know, and doing it well. They do not thrill to politics, not often anyway, because politics is too often like taking a mud bath, only the mud is verbal slop, none of the good stuff, no dirt, just slime.

Why do you think Colin Powell, one of the greatest military leaders of his age, an admirer of George C. Marshall (his personal hero), Dwight Eisenhower, and the combat soldier, said no to the presidency?  The ability to be a good president was well within him; the path was a slime trail.

So, at the local level, what does that look like? In places like Maine, the legislature – by way of example – has one veteran on their “veterans committee.”  Funny, eh? Not really. While good people, most are young – one went to Harvard, came from Wisconsin, several were legislative assistants, one an immigration paralegal, one a trained model. Only was in the army.

So, does that mean poor decision-making, inattention to veterans, and fraying priorities? Maybe., maybe not.  The key is this: The values our WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War era veterans fought for – the values they were willing to die for, are the loadstar.

We must remember that this nation owes it all – ALL – to our veterans. Honor them and their values, and we survive. Dishonor them, what they fought for, we lose. Not complicated, vital to the future.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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Moonpup
Moonpup
19 days ago

Many excellent points and the “How many can say why rocker arm covers do not exist in an electric car” made me laugh. One line however, while I’m sure the insult was unintended, was irksome, “Of 8.75 million in Vietnam”, many of us – and if I live to be 85, I will have given a tenth of my life in uniform – served during the Vietnam era and (like myself) volunteered for ‘Nam but didn’t go there. My brother-in-law, with whom I no longer associate, told me that I had no right to call myself a vet because I didn’t go to ‘Nam – and, no, he never served anything except generous meals to himself Where did I serve you might ask, I was with the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) for three years and learned the difference between Military Officers and Political Officers, my “boss” (SACEUR/CINCEUR) was a military soldier/scholar then was replaced by a political (AKA kiss-up). I feel that there are far too many officers now who have become politicized in order to advance. Oboze relieved many Genera/Flag Officers and I feel that politics played a big part in that. As a parting shot to all this, I think that I’m probably representative of many military members who returned to (or were in) CONUS in the ’70’s and had to associate with civilians and endure their ridicule while we were still in uniform. After that we not only wanted nothing to do with politics, we wanted little to do with people who weren’t vets in general

Max
Max
19 days ago

RBC, nice and informative article. The main reason for so few Vets being in the Congress may be the lack of support from the political parties who have basically made the parties into clubs for the wealthy only. Those military members who have attained the General/Admiral ranks have had to deal with the political aspect of their positions especially during peacetime and some are groomed to take positions within one of the parties. Then they are manipulated to forget their values and follow the path that leads to doom. As stated, veterans in Congress can help but with so few there, the enemy continues to destroy those values that have paid for with blood of the military members. The “Club” needs to be evicted.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
19 days ago

They’re going to be building a new VA Hospital in Reno, NV, a place I have not been to in over 7 years because (w/o disclosing my personal medical information) they failed to address and treat my medical condition. Typical government: put everything into a shiny, new package without improving its contents! And once again, after billions spent building it, Yucca Mountain is up for discussion again to be used as it was intended to be used for: nucear waste storage. Bet Biden nixes it because he’s too busy strip mining lithium at Thacker for use in Teslas, who are laying off about 10,000 ppl at the Reno Mega-factory.

Dennis Selby
Dennis Selby
19 days ago

While some 9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the official Vietnam ERA from August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975, approximately 2,709,918 Americans actually served in uniform in Vietnam.

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