Vets in Congress: There are not enough of us

By Eric Dehm

During the 1960’s and 70’s, veterans made up as high as 75 and no less than 50 percent of Congress. Around 1980 that number went into steep decline, and today less than 20 percent of our Senators and Representatives have served. More than that, less than 1% of congressional staff members are veterans. It’s a trend that two members of Congress tell they don’t see as a positive.

Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Congressman Don Bacon (R-NE), retired from the Iowa National Guard and US Air Force respectively, were both recent guests on’s “Morning Briefing” and spoke to the importance of veterans being involved in policy making.

baconrs Vets in Congress: There are not enough of us

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) who retired from the Air Force in 2014 as a Brigadier General was a recent guest on’s “Morning Briefing” program.

“When we’re voting on Iraq resolutions, or Syria, or Afghanistan,” Bacon says. “I think people when they’re doing those votes need to know what it’s like to live in a tent or be a tanker, whatever it may be.”

Sen. Ernst says that while the experience a veteran gains through service will inform their votes, it can do much more. Including preparing them for the arduous process of campaigning and the difficult schedule and stresses that come once elected.

“It has helped me tremendously with the transition into the U.S. Senate,” Ernst says. “As long as you have that discipline and keep at it? You can be very successful in this arena.”

For Bacon, the desire to be joined by more vets in the political world, whether on the local or national levels crosses party lines.

“Whether it’s Democrat or Republican it’s helpful to have that experience in there,” Bacon says. “They’re clearly trying to recruit veterans to run on the Democrat side and I think we should be doing the same thing.”

joni ernst official photo portrait 114th congress Vets in Congress: There are not enough of us

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) retired as a Lt. Col. in the Iowa National Guard shortly after assuming office in 2015. (Official US Senate portrait)

Whether on the left, or the right, both Ernst and Bacon are clear in their hope that more of their fellow vets are elected to serve alongside them. The junior Iowa senator sums up her feelings on the matter succinctly.

“I would love to see more veterans engaging in politics.”

Connect: @EricDehm |

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