The Ripon Forum

Volume 55, No. 5

Veterans Day 2021

In this edition

By on November 8, 2021

For the third year in a row, The Ripon Forum is dedicating an entire edition to the Veterans Day holiday and those brave men and women who risked their lives in defense of America.   

According to the Pew Research Center, there are around 19 million veterans as of this year.  While that represents less than 10 percent of the total U.S. adult population, the fact remains that veterans are continuing to serve and work all around us.  

They are in the classroom — more than 21,000 have become teachers since 1993.  They are also entrepreneurs and own their own businesses.  According to the Census Bureau, there are over 2.5 million veteran majority-owned businesses in the U.S., employing more than 5 million people.  Veterans are also working to keep us healthy.  Today in America, 5.5 percent of nurse practitioners once served in the military.   

Veterans also serve on Capitol Hill.  In fact, when the 116th Congress convened earlier this year, 91 veterans took the oath of office as a member of the U.S. House or Senate.  According to the Military Times, that is the fewest since the start of World War II.  “The number of veterans in Congress has declined almost steadily since the mid-1970s,” the Times reports.  “In 1973, nearly three in every four members of Congress had some type of military service. In 2021, it’ll be about one in every six members who have military experience.”  However, the Times notes, there are signs that number could increase in the years ahead.  “Of the 79 lawmakers elected to the 117th Congress who are aged 45 or younger,” the publication reports, “21 (about 27 percent) served in the military.” 

As we have in years past, the Forum reached out to both Republican and Democratic lawmakers who served in uniform and asked them to write an essay that answered 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 are honored to feature essays in this regard from a bipartisan group of veteran lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, and U.S. Rep. Van Taylor. 

In addition to these essays, this Special Edition of the Forum also examines some of the key challenges facing veterans today.  The Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, examines some of the steps that have been taken to strengthen the performance of the Department of Veterans Affairs and additional reforms that remain to be made.  U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup writes about life after military service and the effort he is leading to make sure veterans have the resources and training needed to transition to civilian life.  And U.S. Rep. Mike Bost writes about the challenges posed by toxic burn pits and the importance of helping servicemembers who may have been exposed. 

Tammy Barlet of the Veterans of Foreign Wars writes a powerful piece about the mental health care challenges facing veterans and the importance of making sure they receive the care they need, while Kim Parker of the Pew Research Center examines recent survey data of veterans and how they view not only the withdrawal from Afghanistan, but other areas of U.S. foreign policy today.  And Joseph Reagan of Wreaths Across America writes about Veterans Day and how, with American troops now out of Afghanistan, this will be the first holiday in two decades that will be celebrated in relative peace.   

 As in years past, we hope this Special Edition of The Ripon Forum helps shines a light on the importance of America’s veterans.  We honor their service, pay tribute to their sacrifice, and remain eternally grateful for the freedoms they helped defend and preserve. 

Lou Zickar
Editor of The Ripon Forum

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