Don’t Just Thank Veterans for their Service; Vote!

Posted September 27, 2016 by Bill Rausch

Last night, thanks to the generosity of event sponsor Anheuser-Busch, I had the privilege of attending in person the first of the three presidential debates scheduled for this election cycle. Held the day before National Voter Registration Day, yesterday’s event was a chance to remind the American people about their civic duty of voting.

image1But while some veterans groups kept a running tally of mentions of the word “veteran,” and others complained that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was not referenced on stage, I saw it as a different missed opportunity.

The fact is, out of the 21.8 million veterans in this country, 12 million-plus are not enrolled in the VA. It is clear that veterans issues are not exclusively VA issues. Granted, VA reform is critically important and the care and support our warriors have earned is beyond question. That said, veterans do not transition from the military to VA; we transition to communities across our great nation and it’s at the community level where we must be empowered to strengthen our small towns and big cities.

Every issue raised by moderator Lester Holt last night — from race relations to crime to the future prosperity of our country — are issues that veterans not only care about, but are leading the charge on at the local level as leaders, problem solvers, and team builders.

Veterans are the civic assets our country is desperately searching for. And they’re already leading in plain sight!

According to Got Your 6’s 2016 Veterans Civic Health Index, which will be released this week, veterans are indeed the civic assets we think they are. They volunteer, donate, and help their neighbors all at higher rates than civilians. And most notably, given the importance of this election, veterans are more likely to sometimes or always vote in elections than our civilian counterparts.

Over the last century, U.S. service members have fought to liberate and bring democracy to hundreds of millions of people across the world. Now, this Election Day, we are encouraging all Americans to follow our lead by actively participating in the U.S. democratic process.

We have no excuse. When I deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in May 2006 on the heels of the December 2005 Iraqi election, I met many Iraqis who proudly showed me photos of their purple fingers from Election Day. Even in the face of roadside bombs, suicide bombers, and snipers, 80 percent of them turned out to vote. In comparison, the U.S. voter turnout in 2012 was about 57 percent.

So this Election Day — which happens to fall during the same week as Veterans Day — civilians can thank us for our service not with words but by voting.

Today is National Voter Registration Day and I cannot think of a better way to honor our veterans than by visiting to get registered to vote or update your registration.

Don’t just thank a veteran: vote!

Bill Rausch is an Iraq War veteran and the Executive Director of Got Your 6.