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Vote Veteran in 2002
Election Day 2002 is the year of the Military Candidate!
By Elizabeth Kilbride, President & CEO of the National Defense Forum, Arlington, Virginia
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For the last half century we as Americans have lived relatively peaceful lives. Since the second World War, Americans have not had to confront the same wartime fears and hardships that our Parents and Grandparents endured while our nation was fighting a war across two continents. Despite the tragic events that occurred in Oklahoma City, and twice before at the World Trade Center, Americans have not felt that our national security was at serious risk. We as a society changed the way we look at our national security within our own borders on September 11th, 2001. Therefore, the war against terrorism was propelled into the forefront of our Nation's policy agenda.

In the background of our society, there is an increase in defense issues, as a result of 9/11. A case can be made that a sense of complacency has significantly developed and grown in our society, and fewer and fewer of our young people are compelled to serve in our armed forces. Subsequently the percentage of our population who served in the military decreases with each passing day. As we look toward our elected officials in Washington, DC, we see it is now apparent that these issues are looked at more closely. Although they did look at them, they just seriously overlooked them for many, many years. This should sound alarms all across the nation for more military in Congress who have a keen sense of understanding of the demands placed on our armed forces for the 21st century. This is especially true as we prepare to deploy our Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines around the globe as we fight the war on terrorism. "Let us not forget the Coast Guard in this line up", said Congressman Rob Simmons of Connecticut as we discussed how his military experience comes into play as he deals with the current threats we are facing. "When preparing to send troops around the world, one must look at various issues. As you know, I sit on the Armed Forces Readiness Committee. Recently we had to discuss environmental issues facing our military in various hot spots. I call upon my experience in the Army and that of the CIA to give me a better understanding in knowing what our military forces are going to face, to set forth realistic training requirements and make sound decisions." Said Congressman Simmons.

Fortunately, those on Capitol Hill, especially those on the Armed Services who deal with weapons, personnel and operations, have also realized the sobering reality of what we now face. Congressman Hunter also noted that his military service has benefited him since he entered the House in 1981. "Having been in the military, it provided a degree of knowledge in utilizing weapons, personnel, and military operations that prove highly valuable in making legislative policy decisions."

With the new threats we face, should it not be our responsibility as Americans to stand up and be heard with our VOTES. Should we not elect candidates who have a better understanding of what these threats might be. Help is on its way… a new breed of Candidate is on the horizon, who have served in our military within the last 20 years, who have the experience to deal with issues concerning these new threats, and who will help to strengthen the ranks in Washington. These Candidates are qualified veterans who have the essence to ensure our nation's future security. I recently spoke to one such candidate, Adam Taff (US Naval Reserve F-18 Pilot) who is running in Kansas' 3rd district. "Past experience is the most valuable thing a Congressman can bring to his constituents. Congressional leaders, once they reach a certain level of seniority, take trips to hot spots like Israel, Jordan, Bosnia and Somalia, so they can see the people and places where the world is changing. I have been to these places and won't have to wait to apply my knowledge and experience to foreign policy issues. I have interacted with governments, militaries and civilians on the ground in Israel, the Middle East and Croatia. Imagine starting out in Congress pre-equipped with the foreign policy and military preparedness experience of Senator John Warner or Senator Sam Nunn and then building from there." Said Mr. Taff.

Members of both the House and Senate who sit on various committees that authorize and fund military spending should have an understanding of the importance of adequately equipping, staffing and training our armed forces to face 21st century threats. They also need to embrace strategic initiatives, such as missile defense, to ensure our protection from both hostile governments and hostile organizations that may seek to harm the United States and our worldwide allies. The President and Congress have as their foremost Constitutional obligation to duly protect and defend the American Homeland. It is their duty to support such initiatives, therefore we need to elect officials who appreciate and support these objectives.

As we look back in our history, we see that not only did the founding fathers of this great nation have military experience, they had the wisdom to look to the future. One has to wonder where did that wisdom go when we elected some of our representatives in recent years. Have we lost sight of our patriotic duty to elect officials who will safeguard us and our fellow Americans? Since the late 1970's our nation has seen a dramatic decline in our elected officials who have served in the military. For example, in the 107th Congress, with 535 members of Congress and Senate serving this great nation, there are only 146 members with military service. This is quite a drop from 85% twenty years ago.

In the aftermath of the attack of September 11th, 2001, this writer has seen a new breed of candidates stepping forward and running for United States Congress or United States Senate in 2002. This bread has one common thread that links them together. They are all former military, once serving this great nation in uniform, and wanting to serve it again in Congress. It is so refreshing to see so many Americans stepping forward who comprehend the patriotic essence of what our forefathers stood for in creating this great nation. Strengthening the Congressional Ranks with qualified Veterans would be essential in ensuring our nation's security. From what I can see, these men and women all seem to be Pro-defense. They have vowed that once elected, they will challenge their fellow representative's, and constituents, to support programs and training requirements that will prepare our armed forces to adequately meet the challenges that lie ahead of us.

Therefore, we should question ourselves in the coming months to ensure that the tragic events of last September can not happen again through the gradual erosion of our armed force's preparedness. It is not our duty, as Americans, to look at our leaders and make them accountable for not increasing the Defense Budget, securing the funds for our homeland security, and safeguarding our precious Freedom? It is not our responsibility to make sure that what came to light after the election in 2000, where our military personnel's votes weren't counted in many districts around the country. I believe that we should stand together and show our armed forces that we support them. Everyone throughout America should let their voices be heard through their VOTES this coming year.

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