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Marine Corps veteran Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., (left), and Air Force veteran Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., (right) speak at a press conference on Russian threats to U.S. military interests on May 10, 2022. The two are among 97 veterans who will serve in the 118th Congress. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

When lawmakers formally convene the 118th Congress today, they’ll do so with 97 veterans representing 36 states, the most members with military experience since 2015.

The new session begins with five more veterans than the last Congress, a small increase (up from 17% of members in 2021 to 18% this year) but a significant one. It’s the first time since 1965 the number of veterans has gone up by five or more individuals, and only the fourth time in the last 50 years there has been any increase at all in the total veterans elected.

The number of veterans in Congress has declined almost steadily since the mid-1970s, as the military shifted from an end strength of largely drafted individuals to an all-volunteer force.

In 1973, nearly three in every four members of Congress had some type of military service. In 2023, it’ll be about one in every six members who have military experience.

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Because of their backgrounds, veterans serving in the House and Senate are often seen as critical to discussions of Defense Department operations and Veterans Affairs procedures, and tapped to explain those issues to colleagues who lack direct personal experience on the topics.

Here’s a look at the incoming class of veterans:

  • The new Congress includes 80 veterans in the House and 17 in the Senate.
  • There are seven female veterans in Congress now, the most for any session.
  • Congress has 42 Army veterans, the most of any single service.
  • Nearly half of the veterans caucus (47) served a deployment in a combat zone.
  • The list includes 19 newly elected veterans.
  • The political breakdown of the veterans in Congress is 72 Republican veterans, 25 Democratic veterans.
  • Of the group, 60 veterans served at least part of their career in the 2000s.
  • Texas’ delegation includes 10 veterans, the most of any state.

Below is the full list of veterans elected to Congress last fall or returning to incumbent Senate seats that were not up for re-election this cycle:

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

 

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