The number of veterans serving in Congress has been declining for decades.
Veterans running now say reversing that trend would benefit all Americans.
It’s election season and political candidates across the country are working their respective campaign trails, trying to earn your votes.
But of all the people running for all the offices in 2020, there’s fewer politicians like these two: current U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-California, and Republican Casper Stockham, who’s running for Congress in Colorado.
Both of whom served in branches of the United States military.
Carbajal is a former U.S. Marine, serving as a mortarman.
“When we serve our country in the military, there’s a common bond, there’s a common purpose,” Carbajal says.
Stockham was in the U.S. Air Force, working as a weapons mechanic.
“A lot of military people just have a deep-down patriotism,” Stockham says.
The last midterm election brought a record number of female veterans to Congress.
But a new study from the group With Honor Action shows there’s fewer vets in Congress overall. The numbers dropped from 322 in 1973 to 101 in 2003, and now 77 serving in 2020.
The study says two of the biggest challenges for vets wanting to work in Washington are money and political networks.
Carbajal and Stockham, however, have their own theories.
“You now have a volunteer military where less than 1 percent of our population serves today in our military,” Carbajal says. “And, as a result, you’re going to have a lot less veterans.”
“The reason why that’s happening is because a lot of military folks, we’re not really all that Republican or Democrat — we’re just Americans,” Stockham says.
Though they represent two different political parties, both of these politicians believe more vets in office will give our country unique perspectives.
“A willingness to work together to find common ground for a common mission and a common purpose versus getting caught up in our differences,” Carbajal says.
“If more military were running for office and winning those positions, even if you’re Democrat or Republican, we could still find some way to come together to solve these problems,” Stockham says.
While being nonpartisan and having more of a willingness to work together might help break through the gridlock in Washington, it does not guarantee success.
“If we had only veterans, it would not be good,” Carbajal says. “We need to make sure that you have the diversity of backgrounds in Congress because that’s what makes our country the great place that it is.”
“We have to decide what’s important at the end of the day,” Stockham says. “Is it important to be a Democrat or a Republican? Or is it important to do what’s best for our country?”