- By Rebecca Alwine
During each election cycle, military families and veterans are a highly sought demographic to “win.” Politicians take time to show their patriotism by visiting military installations, talking about veteran care, and emphasizing their stances on military issues.
Then they get elected and the military community isn’t talked to or about until the next election cycle.
Until, that is, several veterans started running for office. In November of 2016, 27 post-9/11 veterans were elected to Congress. There were already 26 veterans in Congress, including three Senators not vying for reelection in 2016.
Veterans are making a stand and running for office, from the local level through the federal level, and they’re doing it for a variety of reasons.
Most people assume the military is conservative and staunchly Republican. The truth is veterans are as diverse politically as everyone else, and the two featured below just happen to be Democrats.
Veteran, military spouse, and mother of two
Alexis Frank served in the Army Reserves as a paralegal and is now married to Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune. On the night of the presidential election in November, Frank was up late feeding her newborn daughter when it became clear that Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, was not going to win as previously predicted. Frank woke up the next morning very upset and concerned about the future of the country. She thought, “I have to do more.”
So she did.
She started by attending the Women’s March on Washington with her daughter and came back feeling empowered. She was ready to be the change. “If the House [of Representatives] isn’t diverse, it can’t truly represent the diversity of the nation,” she said in an interview with MilitaryOneClick.
Frank encourages veterans and fellow military spouses to get involved. “Get out from behind your computer and do something,” she said. “Use the programs that are available for veterans, or for women, to help you successfully run for office.” She admits that she jumped into this pretty quickly, but that her campaign is going strong.
Being a mother of two young children and deciding to run for office rather last minute has made some changes necessary. Frank is sending her son and her husband off to California for what would have been a family vacation as she continues campaigning. While scheduling a recent vacation to Hawaii, Frank’s mother–one of her biggest supporter–gave the family strict instructions including “no babies and no weddings.” Frank joked, “She didn’t say no one could decide to run for office!”
Update, May 3, 11:31 AM: Archie Parnell won the Democratic primary with 71 percent of the vote.
From snake catcher to Army officer
In high school, Jason Crow had a job catching turtles and rattlesnakes. Some may say it prepared him for multiple deployments and Ranger School. Others may argue those skills will come in handy should he win his campaign for a seat in Congress. After serving his country as both an enlisted soldier and an Army officer, Crow moved home to Colorado and is ready to continue serving the American people.
“My favorite thing about serving in the military,” he said, “Was wearing a flag on my shoulder every day and knowing I was serving something greater than myself.”
Crow’s involvement in the political arena has been in a supportive capacity until this campaign run. He originally was driven to help veterans receive the benefits they earned, as this was something he struggled with when he resigned his commission. He supported the campaigns of others, and even spoke at the 2012 Democratic Convention. But Crow feels that both his military experience and his experience as a litigator, conducting investigations, and responding to government inquiries on behalf of his clients, uniquely qualify him for the job.
Crow believes the system isn’t working for everyday families anymore and he is ready to do something about it. One of his goals is to guide the country away from party lines and focus on working together with shared values and priorities. “While we stand on the shoulders of giants, it is up to us to consistently fight for those values,” he said.
Veterans in politics
Veterans like Crow and Frank use their military experiences to accomplish their professional goals. “We [veterans] know how to get things done, we can work with diverse groups of people, and we identify with a shared purpose,” Crow said.
Frank agrees, “If veterans don’t know teamwork, then no one does.” Frank thinks that several things equip veterans for politics. From understanding and respecting the hierarchy of politics to knowing when to push boundaries and when to leave them be, veterans have already experienced those situations. “We need veterans on the Armed Services Committee, we need people who know what the daily needs of military service members and families are.”
“The lack of veterans involved motivated me to get started in politics,” Frank said. She is encouraged by the commitment and courage of other veterans like Tammy Duckworth. Crow hopes to encourage other veterans by reminding them they have more to bring to the table than they may think.