Obama nominates Hagel, another Vietnam vet, for cabinet

By Laurie Bennett

January 7, 2013 at 1:22pm

The new year brings major generational shifts among veterans holding national office.

President Obama on Monday nominated former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam vet, to be secretary of Defense.

Chuck Hagel
Chuck Hagel

Obama has also tapped Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, another Vietnam vet, to secretary of state.

If approved, Hagel and Kerry would be the first Vietnam vets to hold their respective offices.

A current member of Obama’s cabinet, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, is also a Vietnam vet. Although Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was in the Army in the 1960s, he did not serve in Vietnam.

The 113th Congress, sworn in last week, has 16 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, the largest number since those wars began.

The freshman class includes the first female combat veterans elected to Congress - Democrats Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

Yet overall, the number of veterans on Capitol Hill is the lowest since World War II. Nineteen percent of the members have served in the military, down from 22 percent in the previous Congress and a high of 80 percent in 1977.

The number of World War II veterans in Washington declined in recent weeks with the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye and the retirement of fellow Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka.

Three WWII veterans, all octogenarians, continue to serve in Congress:

  • Rep. John Dingell (D-MI)
  • Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX)
  • Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
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