After the 2022 elections, NCSL identified at least 748 military veterans serving in the legislatures of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. These veterans make up 10.11% of the 7,575 state and territorial legislators nationwide. Military veteran legislators represent every branch of the military and the National Guard as they bring their training, commitment and leadership skills to state government. This is a decline of 163 since the last election cycle. The prior NCSL survey conducted after the 2020 election identified at least 911 military veterans serving in the legislatures of the 50 states and five U.S. territories.
The dedication of these legislators who pursue elective office in the states, concurrent with or following military service, exemplifies the true meaning of public service. Military families are very much appreciated as well, since they are vital support systems for all those service members and veterans who dedicate themselves to serving the nation.
New Hampshire, with the largest number of legislators (424), also has the largest number of veterans—49 members with military service. Including New Hampshire, 14 states have 20 or more veterans serving as legislators, including Florida (23), Georgia (25), Kansas (23), Maryland (20), Missouri (25), Montana (22), New York (20), North Carolina (20), North Dakota (20), Pennsylvania (25) South Carolina (26) and West Virginia (20).
One of these legislators is Virginia Sen. Bryce Reeves, who served as a U.S. Army airborne ranger and infantry officer, and who currently chairs the Virginia Military Caucus. The leadership skills he learned as an officer have served him well in the Legislature, Reeves says.
“One trait I personally believe anyone who has worn the cloth of our country has, is the ability to analyze complex issues and find positive solutions quickly. Those traits translate into getting legislation passed and signed into law,” he says. “For me personally, serving in public office is an extension of my service in the military. My legislative focus and mission have always been to make sure we enhance our military readiness by taking care of our active, reserve and military families. My goal is to make sure Virginia is the most veteran-friendly state in the country.”
Reeves co-chairs the NCSL Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs. The task force gathers state legislators and legislative staff to share best practices and innovations to assist military service members and veterans in their states. It coordinates closely with the U.S. Department of Defense, working with nearby military installations to bring sound state policy options to sustain them. Meetings take place over two days, one day for policy discussion and another to visit nearby military installations.