Today, the 114th Congress opens. This year’s class features three new senators who are post-9/11 veterans, and five members of the House of Representatives who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Veterans bring a unique perspective to the national security debate. With the number of members of Congress who have actually served in the military at its lowest point in 25 years, our elected officials who can speak with this unique authority have become a rare commodity.
Dan Sullivan, a Marine out of Arkansas, Tom Cotton, an Army veteran from Arkansas, and Joni Ernst, an Army veteran from Iowa, all served our country in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and begin their service to the United States Senate today. Senators Sullivan and Ernst will serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, while Senator Cotton will take a seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Additionally, Senator Sullivan will serve on the Veterans Affairs Committee.
Initially a Marine reservist, Lieutenant Colonel Sullivan was activated from 2004 to 2006, 2009, and for a six-week tour in Afghanistan in July, 2013. Sullivan was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal. Cotton was a captain in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) after his graduation from OCS in 2005 and was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been awarded the Bronze Star, Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Ranger Tab. Ernst, the first female veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan to serve in the Senate, is the commanding officer of the 185th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion of the Iowa National Guard.
At approximately 3:00 p.m. today, “The People’s House” welcomes five veterans of our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan: Ryan Zinke (MT), Lee Zeldin (NY), Ruben Gallego (AZ), Mark Takai (HI), and Seth Moulton (MA). They will all serve on key committees including the Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, and Intelligence committees. (As of the time of this writing, the Steering Committees of their respective caucuses have only recommended committee assignments. They will all receive their official committee assignments after their party caucuses have endorsed them.)