Simple question. There are just over 300 million Americans. There are about 7-8 million Veterans, both of actual wartime service but also peacetime. That's pretty small all things considered. Vietnam lasted 8 years, and at one point there were over 500,000 troops in that one little country, yet by the end of the war there were only 2.5 million Vietnam Veterans in America. Iraq lasted almost that long and that only had 1 million Veterans, but even including all the service members who never set foot in a war zone you have to admit there really aren't a lot of us.
Yet despite this fact politicians from both sides of the isle spend an inordinate amount of time courting Veterans and Veterans groups. As John Kerry found out in 2004, they are NOT a group you want to piss off. Also as John Kerry found out later to his great embarrassment, it is unwise to suggest that people "stuck in Iraq" are there because of poor education.
Indeed you would think people stationed miles from civilization with little or no contact to "the real world" could be easily ignored. Who cares what soldiers think, they're not paid to think... Right? WRONG. First off the myth of the dumb grunt that can ONLY be a trigger puller is as false as George Washington's teeth. The average per capita education level of Service members is far higher than their civilian counterparts. You can't hardly become a Sergeant First Class without AT LEAST a bachelors degree, and most Sergeants Major have either a doctorate or at the very least a Masters Degree. So while many civilians might actually be fooled by a lot of the fancy talk Veterans on average demand more substantive answers. Keep in mind these people have taken an oath to die if needs must to "support and defend the constitution". It's an oath most take VERY seriously
But also veterans were social networkers long before there ever was such a thing. You meet a lot of people in the Military, and you tend to keep in touch with the people that you could count on. I may not have known anyone in say the Navy, but you better believe if I put the word out about something that might effect the Navy, or if one Sailor in particular were grievously wronged, it would spread like wild-fire. A lot of Veterans know how to make connections and if they see a wrong they will respond with almost overnight groundswells and grass root campaigns to deal with this issue or that. That kind of support if ever mobilized for any reason can make, and break any candidate or holder of office (see 2004 presidential election)
Veterans are sparing in what they get riled up in. Think about the most
recent cases where Veterans have stirred their ire. Bob and Nancy
Strait, a WWII Screaming eagle and his wife of 65 years get their home
invaded and beaten, Nancy is raped and dies of her wounds. We as a
community did not call for vigilantism, did not put s bounty on anyone's
head, only that someone really ANYONE on the national stage PAY ATTENTION.
Or in Florida where a local VFW asked the local DNC headquarters to
take down a flag that had Obama's face in the blue field instead of the
proper stars. It was heavily disrespectful, and they even provided free
of charge a flag of comparable proportions. Another case that had us all
LIVID was when it was discovered that Arlington, THE. MOST. HALLOWED. GROUND.
for all Veterans of this country was desecrated, having multiple
service members burrows in the same grave, and even bodies of our fallen
dead dumped into landfills. All of these cases and more have had an
impact when veterans make their voices heard. We as a community tend not
to bandy about with our words, but when mobilized can strike with the
force of a hurricane.
More than that however Veterans tend to be the most active in civics. While it might sound like preaching to the choir, most Veterans WILL vote. Come hell or high water they will literally move heaven and earth to make sure they, and their families get to the polling stations. When America is lucky to get 50% voter turn out, Veterans consistently are in the high 90's for turn out. When your life is tied to the whims of whatever leaders are in office be they Saint or Jack-ass, you tend to get really serious about voting. But its not just voting. Go to a Veteran, ask them about an important issue. Anyone whose done more than one hitch will know at least something, compared to their civilian counterparts.
Lastly and this is entirely my opinion, Veterans tend to represent the very best qualities of our country. We are the Young men and women who put Duty above personal desire and achieve, often through sheer force of will tasks that the pundits claim impossible.that attitude does not go away when we take the uniform off. By in large you can almost certainly find Veterans, and the many organizations that support them out in front either in local philanthropic or actual volunteer work. Some time you ought to read about the guys in Bangor Maine that were there to greet the soldiers every day coming home on mid-tour leave. Some of those guys were going through chemo, and would drag their frail nearly dead asses out of their hospital bed to go to the airport to be there for the troops. That's a kind of love and dedication that humbles even those who show it regularly.
Whatever happens this November, if Romney wins or Obama (dear God in heaven PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE not Ron Paul) you can be pretty certain that both sides will court Veterans, and do their darnedest to get our support on their side. Kind of humbling to think that so much emphasis is given to you despite the fact that you are a relatively small percentage of the population. Whatever happens Veterans, choose wisely.
As a Vietnam veteran I hope and pray that the media does not portray the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with the same tar and feathers that they used on us. For every returning veteran that is homeless there are countless others that are productive citizens. Politicians use the military veterans as pawns in their political campaigns. When the wars are over and the fighting forgotten the veterans are relegated to the back of the line. Being educated concerning the issues and voting are something that veterans paid dearly for and they are involved and may it ever be so.
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