The greatest show of support for America’s veterans, whose sacrifices are being honored this weekend, actually came last Tuesday. A record number of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans — 16, with some races still undecided — were elected to Congress. Of that group, nine are first-time officeholders and two, Democrats Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, are the first women who served in Iraq to be sent to Congress. They will, of course, be powerful watchdogs for veterans’ affairs.
They and their fellow veterans know, in a way that other members of Congress might not, that many people who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are struggling with the physical and mental toll of war. Suicide, homelessness, and unemployment are lingering threats that require congressional oversight. As the wars draw to a close, the fates of the 2.5 million Americans who served in combat in the years after Sept. 11, 2001, will depend on the vigilance of those in public office. It should be a comfort to veterans to know that so many of their number will be in the room when important decisions get made.