Wednesday, August 15, 2012

No Presidential Candidates with Military Service

This the first presidential election in 80 years in which no one on either ticket has served in the military. The last time that happened was 1932 when John Nance Garner joined Franklin D. Roosevelt's campaign against then-President Herbert Hoover and Charles Curtis. Roosevelt had served as assistant secretary of the Navy, but that is a civilian position.

Despite the fact that Romney's introducing Ryan on Saturday aboard the battleship Wisconsin gave the event a decidedly military air, the lack of a veteran in the race underscores the growing distance between today's all-volunteer military and the vast majority of society which lacks direct contact with it.

The military draft had long been abolished by the time Ryan and President Obama turned 18. Vice President Joe Biden was deemed medically ineligible in 1968 during the Vietnam War due to a history of asthma. Romney received four draft deferments for being a college student and then for doing mission work in France for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. None of them volunteered for service.

In elections over the past 80 years, at least one of the major party candidates had served in the military. John McCain, shot down as a Navy flier, was held prisoner and tortured in Vietnam. John Kerry fought in Vietnam and George W. Bush served in the Air National Guard. Al Gore was a specialist in the Army and saw combat as a military journalist. Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush fought in World War II; Bush was shot down and Dole was seriously wounded.  Walter Mondale was an Army corporal from 1951-53; Ronald Reagan was an Army captain and Jimmy Carter spent time as a lieutenant in the Navy.

Why does it matter? Because it demonstrates the growing isolation between our professional military and the general population who do not, can not, fully appreciate the stresses placed on our service members and their families and the sacrifices required of them, even in peace time. We must all guard against the consequences of that lack of appreciation and the potential harm it can do to military and our National Defense.

Live Long and Prosper...

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