America is facing one of the largest transitions of active military service members to the civilian sector since the Vietnam conflict ended. Since September 11th, 2001, uniformed men and women have been deployed to some of the most dangerous places on the planet in support of U.S. strategic objectives against terrorism. They’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt, and now that they’re out of uniform, they are sharing their opinions, and Americans are listening.

Presidential candidates who underestimate the influence of the veteran voice in 2016 are making a huge mistake. The veteran vote (and “voice”) matters in 2016 because many Americans are looking to former service members for interpretations of what’s happened since 9/11 in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Africa with regards to U.S. Foreign Policy and Domestic security concerns.

“What have we accomplished in Afghanistan? Iraq?”

“Is America a safer place today?”

“Did the U.S. cause ISIS?”

What about Iran? Are they a real threat to U.S. national security?”

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I’ve personally seen these questions repeatedly on SOFREP’s social channels, and on my own personal social media pages. My friend and former teammate Mike and I were talking about the issue and he had this to say.

“With the level of sacrifice that our veterans have invested into the last 14 years of sustained combat, it is paramount perhaps now more than ever to get involved in and be a voice that is heard loudly in the 2016 election. We need to have a strong influence in the government that decides whether or not, why, and where they will employ us.”

-Former Navy SEAL, and founder of Trikos International  Mike Ritland

The veteran community, and America, appears to have grown tired of politics as usual, and the American political class of royalty (Kennedy, Bush, Clinton…press play, repeat), the play list is tired and worn out.

Veterans have come home to a country they love and fought to protect, and what they’ve realized (like I did myself) is that many of the elected officials are so out of touch with a modern America (similar to Iran’s regime) it’s scary, and the rights granted to all Americans under the Constitution, the same civil rights veterans have fought to protect, have been gradually and carelessly eroded, all in the name of Patriotism. 

This is what we call in the military, UNSAT (short for unsatisfactory).

From the USA PATRIOT Act’s over-broad definition of domestic terrorism, to the FBI’s new powers of search and surveillance, to the indefinite detention of both citizens and non-citizens without formal charges, the principles of free speech, due process, and equal protection under the law have been seriously undermined.-CivilFreedoms.org

This is why Veterans will make themselves heard in all forms of media in 2016, and the candidates that get this now and get out in front of the veteran voice in 2016 will have an advantage. The ones that don’t, like waiting in line for a primary doctor at the VA, will be so far behind the issues they’ll never get what they need.