Women veterans can make changes in government

Midterm elections are here, and this year a baker’s dozen worth of female veterans are running for office.

Before getting into it, I just want to be clear that no matter what I say in this post, I am not endorsing any of these candidates. This is just about the fact that they made it through the primaries.

These 13 women are part of the 172 veterans running for Congress. Since the Vietnam conflict, the percentage of veterans in Congress has declined significantly. According to an article in The Washington Post, Congress was 75 percent veterans. Now, it is less than 19 percent. There could be an entire college thesis for the reasons for this alone.

One might think that having more veterans in Congress would mean there are more lawmakers supporting war. However, the opposite is true. The Washington Post article points out that veterans are more likely to question the White House on use of military force.

So, while veterans act as the military watchdog on the White House, female veterans can also work on initiatives that help the military, women in the military, and women overall. They bring a mix of leadership experience in stressful situations, as well as the skill set to survive or even thrive in a male-dominated environment.

Army veterans include Tobi Beck (Indiana) and Shirley McKellar (Texas). McKellar retired after only 18 years due to her wounded warrior status.

On her campaign page, she said, “I was forced to retire from the Military, a career I loved, as a Wounded Warrior. I was appalled to see the treatment of service members in the VA hospitals, and it was my experience in the VA system that ultimately made me decide to run for public office. I launched my first campaign for congress in 2012 to represent District 1.”

Amy McGrath (Kentucky) is the only Marine Corps veteran. According to her website, McGrath wanted to fly jets from the time she was 12 years old. By the time she was old enough to do so, she learned about combat exclusion, meaning she wasn’t allowed due to her gender.

Amy+McGrath+photo

So, McGrath wrote letters to members of Congress and published letters to the editor in her hometown newspapers trying to get rid of the restrictions. She got no satisfactory response from her own congressional delegation, never receiving a reply from U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell. Next, she wrote to all members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. In her response letter, Rep. Patricia Schroeder of Colorado, wrote, “The object of a war is to win. We should, therefore, field the best-qualified military possible…I think that it is time for military service to be based on qualifications, not gender.”

During her senior year at Notre Dame Academy in Park Hills, the combat exclusion law was lifted, and McGrath was accepted into the United States Naval Academy as part of the Class of 1997.  Upon graduation, she was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. She spent most of her career flying jets. In 2014, she returned to the Naval Academy where she served as a senior political science instructor until she retired on June 1, 2017.

Navy veterans include Margaret Engebretson (Wisconsin), Elaine Luria (Virginia), and Mikie Sherrill (New Jersey)

Air Force veterans include MJ Hegar (Texas); Chrissy Houlahan (Pennsylvania); Martha McSally (Arizona), who is running for reelection; Gina Ortiz Jones (Texas), Wendy Rogers (Arizona), Tammy Savoie (Louisiana), who was part of the Air National Guard), and Aja Smith (California).

The political ad that got me interested in the women veterans running for office was an ad called “Doors” for Hegar.

Since I don’t vote in Texas, I did not pay much attention to her issues specifically, but what I loved was the way this ad tied everything together through doors, which ends up explaining why she is running for office.

Like several of the candidates running this year, not just veterans and not just women, Hegar was fed up with being ignored by the people who are supposed to be her political representatives.

My eye was drawn to Smith simply because the photo on her website shows her in an enlisted uniform, while the others were all officers. The website also says that if elected, she would be the first African-American female Republican to serve in Congress from California.

Other than McSally, the females currently serving in Congress or Senate are Tammy Duckworth (Illinois), Joni Ernst (Iowa), and Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii).

So, I guess we’ll see how these women do, and I hope everyone gets out there to vote, no matter who you decide to vote for. On Wednesday, I will update this post to reflect which of these women make it.

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