A decade of wars abroad has not reversed the decline in military veterans serving in the U.S. Congress. When the next session convenes in January, the two chambers will have the fewest number of veterans serving since World War II. It's a continuation of a nearly four-decade-long decline of veterans in office since the peak of their service in the years after the Vietnam War.
In 2013, just 19% of the 535 combined members in the U.S. House and Senate will have active-duty military service on their resume, down from a peak in 1977 when 80% of lawmakers boasted military service. In the current Congress, 22% are military veterans.
The transition from the draft to an all-volunteer military in 1973 is a driving force of the decline, but veterans and their advocates say they face more challenges running for office in the modern era of political campaigns.One of the incoming veterans is Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who lost her legs as a helicopter pilot in Iraq:
"There's so few opportunities that we have where veterans can run a federal campaign," said Jon Soltz of VoteVets.org, a liberal veterans' advocacy group that supports candidates for office. "They are credible messengers to the public, but only if they're financed. A veteran with a great narrative that doesn't have the infrastructure to sell themselves is a tree falling alone in the woods."