Green Beret Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), former Navy SEAL Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), and Marine veteran Rep. Mike Gallagher — all veterans of the post-9/11 wars, launched a new initiative on Wednesday to recruit more Republican veterans to Congress.
“We need more veterans in Congress. We have gone from a record high in the 1980s, hovering around 80 percent of veterans in the House of Representatives and the Senate to a record low in our nation’s history today, hovering between 15 and 18 percent. That number is unacceptable,” Waltz said. “We are looking to change that.”
Waltz said it was important to get more veterans in Congress due to the ethos of service that they bring. “On the ship, on the plane, in the fox hole, it’s not about race, religion, socio-economic background, it’s about getting the mission done, and accomplishing that mission for your country.”
“Our call, and our call to action is, if you’re a serious candidate who’s ready to continue serving your country…roll up your sleeves, get in the arena, come here and serve side-by-side with us and continue to serve,” he said.
Crenshaw said when he was injured in 2012, he never thought about getting out of the military. “This was my way to serve and that’s what I wanted to do. I was very stubborn like that.” He said he fought to stay in the military for a long time, until his commandant sat him down and said, “Listen, this is not the only way you can serve the SEAL teams.”
“I didn’t quite believe that at the time. Of course, he ended up being exactly right,” he said.
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“We need you to get engaged. It is a critical time for this country so please reach out to us,” Gallagher said.
The initiative is backed by the War Veterans Fund and will help recruit, train, mentor, and support veterans running for Congress. The group backed Waltz and Crenshaw in 2018, raising more than $130,000 from individual donors, which amounted to about $27,000 for each candidate it backed.
Waltz said early support is critical for veterans running for Congress. He said since they have been “running around the world getting shot at,” they typically are not rich, cannot self-fund, and often have not yet built a base of support like other candidates.
“This is why the War Veterans Fund is so critical is because it helps with those resources, it helps with local connections, and it’s endeavoring in its second round for 2020 to help with training as well, and that is just a critical, critical aspect, and as combat veterans, we know how to train.”
Crenshaw called the group’s support an “immense help.”
“Even the smallest amount of help in the beginning is huge for first time candidates,” he said. He also encouraged veterans to step forward even if they do not feel completely prepared.
“Veterans tend to want to be ultra prepared. They want to know every single thing that they need to know before they run for office, because they’re mission planners. Well, that’s good…but don’t undersell yourself. You can actually come here and do this,” he said. “We would love to help you and love to help you.”
“Veterans have great stories to tell,” Gallagher said. But, he added, “If you don’t have resources, if you don’t have support, you won’t be able to tell that story. And that’s why having an organization like the War Veterans Fund is so critical in terms of getting veterans who want to serve off the ground.”
He noted that Democrats have done a good job at recruiting post-9/11 vets. “I think we would be dumb not to do the same thing.”
Reps. Greg Steube (R-FL), an Army veteran,;Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), a military mother; and Rep. William Timmons (R-SC), an Army National Guard veteran, were also there to support the initiative.
“These gentlemen here today, and the veterans that the War Fund is trying to promote in terms of other candidates — they’ve laid it on the line. They haven’t just believed in and stood up for our freedom and liberty. They have laid it on the line and put their lives at stake for the very values that we believe in,” said Wagner, whose father also served in the military.
“They are true leaders who have been in that foxhole,” she added. “We’ve got to be deliberate as we go forward and recruit this next generation of veterans.”
The Veteran War Fund is also launching a political action committee. The group’s deputy coordinator Matthew Robbins called Wednesday’s event a “smashing success.”
He said veterans who are interested in running can go to their website at https://warveteransfund.org.