The Ripon Forum

Volume 53, No. 5

Veterans Day 2019

In this edition

By on November 3, 2019

Sixty-five years ago this past summer, Congress passed legislation to change the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

Up until that time, the day – which was formally marked at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month — commemorated the end of World War I and the American soldiers who had fought and died in that great conflict.

By 1954, Americans had fought and died in two other conflicts. The name change reflected the fact that the country had an obligation – had a du ty – to honor these brave individuals, as well. At the time of the bill’s passage, over half of the House and Senate had served America in uniform. This number would increase over the next two decades, reaching its peak between 1965 and 1975, when at least 70% of lawmakers serving on Capitol Hill had military experience.

The number of veterans serving in Congress has decreased steadily in the years since. “Today,” Pew Research Center reported this past February, “19% of Senators and 18% of Representatives have served in the military.” According to the Military Times, although there are six fewer veterans serving in the current 116th Congress, there are more female veterans (7) serving than ever before, and this year’s freshman class included the most veterans in a decade (19). The Times also reported a number of other key facts about the veterans who now serve in Congress.

In total, there are 96 veterans in the 116th Congress. Thirty of these veterans are Democrats, while 66 are Republicans. Nineteen serve in the Senate, 77 serve in the House. Forty eight served in the military after 2000, while 21 served in the military in the 1960s or earlier. Nineteen of the veterans are first-time lawmakers. Fifty served in the Army, Army Reserve or Army National Guard. Seventeen served in the Marine Corps or Marine Corps Reserve. Seventeen served in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard. Thirteen served in the Navy or Naval Reserve. And one lawmaker served in the Coast Guard.

With the eleventh day of the eleventh month once again approaching, The Ripon Forum decided to reach out to a number of these lawmakers and ask them a simple question – “What does Veterans Day mean to me?” Among other things, we asked them to share stories about their time in uniform and how they mark this important holiday each year. We also asked them to discuss any specific legislative initiatives they are working on that will not only be of assistance to America’s veterans, but be a fitting tribute to their service to America, as well. We contacted the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs – who serves as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve and is the son and grandson of veterans – and asked him this same question as well. We are honored to feature in this special edition of the Forum his response to this question in the form of an essay, along with the essays of 16 veteran lawmakers, too.

As someone who grew up in the 1970s – a time when military service was often frowned upon and those returning from Vietnam were too often looked upon with scorn – it is gratifying to know that we have turned a corner in the United States and are now at a point where those who wear the uniform of our country are honored, and those who return from deployment abroad are cheered. It is only fitting that we express our appreciation for their service and sacrifice.

This edition of the Forum is meant to do just that — to be a small tribute to the men and women who put their lives on the line in defense of our freedom, and a way of saying “thank you” to the heroes we honor each and every Veterans Day.

Lou Zickar
Editor of The Ripon Forum

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Comments are closed.