Younger veterans entering Congress

Nov. 12, 2012 at 3:50 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- A record number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans -- 16 -- were elected to Congress, including Congress' first two female combat veterans, officials said.

Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii who did a tour in Iraq with the Army National Guard's 29th Brigade in 2004, and Tammy Duckworth, an Army Black Hawk helicopter pilot who lost her legs in a crash in Iraq in 2004 took a House seat in Illinois, joining about 24 other veterans joining or returning to Congress next year, Politico reported Sunday.

Gabbard, 31, said her combat experience has informed her political career.

"One of the most heartbreaking responsibilities I had was to go over the list of troops who had been injured or killed every day and identify Hawaii[an] soldiers so that I could make sure they were receiving proper care. This experience has never left me," Gabbard told Politico.

On election night, Duckworth tweeted: "Amazing night. I would not be here had the real heroes and the healers not saved my life. Thank you."

Observers say the overall number of veterans in Congress is staying about the same, but the makeup is gradually shifting from people who served in World War II, Korea or Vietnam to those who served in Afghanistan, Operation Desert Storm and Iraq.

"Of the 42 new veterans that ran this cycle, at least 16 of them were elected to office," said Paul Rieckhoff, chief executive officer of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "[It's] another example of the strength and potential of the new greatest generation. We are hopeful that these veterans will work together in Congress just like they did in combat and lead Washington in a new direction."

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