Last week, Congressman Joe Sestak jumped into the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania. Today, the over 105,000 veterans and civilian supporters at VoteVets.org are endorsing him.
As much as some may think it has everything to do with Arlen Specter, it doesn't. It's about the values that war veterans learn, that they operate under, and that they carry with them after military life. It's about why we need those values in government, now more than ever. By this, I mean there are two key things that war veterans know almost better than anyone else.
First and foremost -- the overriding goal of having a military is not having to use it. Those who have seen the horrors of war up close understand this better than anyone else. When we undertake military action, we will lose American lives. We will see other lives scarred and maimed -- physically and mentally -- forever. It's for that reason that military veterans often explore every possible option, and strongly urge others to, before committing to military action. That's good not just for our men and women in uniform, but also for America.
And yet, there's so few left in the Senate who know this first-hand. There are only three combat vets left. Senators Kerry, Webb, and McCain. That's it. And, though their service was heroic, it was during Vietnam, not the wars of the 21st century. Perhaps that's a product of so few fighting these wars -- just a fraction of a percent of the American population. But it makes the perspective of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans no less important to have in the Senate.
Secondly, the military operates under a very simple premise -- that the body itself cannot survive unless everyone takes care of everyone, and no one is left behind. Shock of shocks, that's a pretty progressive sounding thing. And, in fact, it is.
It's a principle that most veterans carry with them long after they leave the service. If the soldiers or Marines on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan operated under "every man for himself" or "screw you, I got mine" as their code, we wouldn't last very long.
Joe Sestak, especially, has a strong understanding of that, having risen up to the rank of Admiral in the Navy, where he had a large number of men and ships under his command. He applies that principle to major decisions he's had to make in Congress, and will carry that on to the Senate. And, it's not a principle from which he will waver, or toss away due to politics.
In the end, it's not just pushing for more recent veterans in House and Senate just because they're veterans. It's about what they've carried home with them in their heads and hearts. It's about bringing to Congress the same integrity, honor, and hard work with which veterans served America while in the military.
I think we all agree that Capitol Hill could use a bit more of that.
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