U.S. Military Service in the U.S. House of Representatives
GOP caucus has 60 percent higher rate of service than Democratic caucus; 17 state delegations have no members with military background
As the nation pauses this Memorial Day weekend to commemorate those members of the U.S. armed forces who died in in military service, there is particular poignancy because America is still involved in wars on two fronts in the Middle East.
With 4,400 military fatalities since 2003 in the war in Iraq and nearly 1,100 since 2001 in Afghanistan, and the cost of each war in the hundreds of billions of dollars, it is particularly important that the perspective of those who have served in the armed forces be represented in Congress.
While the percentage of U.S. Representatives with military experience has declined from past generations, more than 1 in 5 members of the U.S. House are veterans in the 111th Congress (93 of the 432 non-vacant voting districts).
What is the profile of the average Representative who has served in the U.S. military?
That Representative is more likely to be a Republican than a Democrat, and the Republican caucus has an overall 60 percent higher rate of military service than the Democratic caucus.
After Republican Charles Djou (who reached the rank of Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve) won Hawaii’s special election for its 1st CD earlier this month, 49 of the 177 GOP seats in the House are held by veterans, or 27.7 percent of its caucus.
By contrast, just 44 of the 255 Democratic seats in the U.S. House are held by veterans, or 17.3 percent of its caucus.
A member of the U.S. House who has served in military also has on average two more full terms under his belt in the House than his colleagues who are not veterans.
U.S. Representatives with military service have served an average of 14.8 years in the lower chamber compared to an average of 10.6 years for those who have not. John Dingell (MI-15), 54.6 years), John Conyers (MI-14, 45.4 years), Bill Young (FL-10, 39.4 years) and Charlie Rangel (NY-15, 39.4 years) lead the way.
A Representative who is a veteran is also more likely to hail from the South compared to the other three regions of the country.
The South has elected a disproportionately higher percentage of candidates with military experience, accounting for nearly half of those with a military background in the entire U.S. House (44 of 93, 47.3 percent).
Overall, 28.8 percent of the 153 Representatives from the 17 southern states have military service, compared to 18.3 percent in the Northeast (15 of 82), 18.2 percent in the Midwest (18 of 99), and 16.5 percent in the West (16 of 97).
Led by Texas, whose 32-member delegation has 10 members with military service, the West South Central division of the country has the highest percentage of veterans in the House, at 27.1 percent (13 of 48).
Representatives from the six states in the New England division (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) have the lowest rate of military service with just 2 veterans out of 22 seats, or 9.1 percent (the two being Massachusetts’ Ed Markey (MA-07) and Bill Delahunt (MA-10)).
Overall, 17 states currently have U.S. House delegations without any members having served in the U.S. armed forces: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
After Alaska, whose at-large representative Don Young served in the Army from 1955-1957, the states with the highest percentage of members who have served in the military are Kentucky (4 of 6, 66.7 percent) and South Carolina (4 of 6, 66.7 percent).
Two other states, both with two-member delegations, have half of its members with a background in the military – Idaho (Democrat Walt Minnick) and Hawaii (the newly elected GOPer Djou).
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