Veterans Day, a federal holiday celebrated on Nov. 11, has a special meaning for some elected officials.
According to NCSL’s one-of-a-kind tracking, more than 900 state legislators are military veterans, current reservists or members of the National Guard. The nation’s state legislatures benefit from the presence of this unique and dedicated group of people who have served in the military and continue to serve the nation in an elected policymaking capacity.
Serving as a state legislator is a natural progression from military service.
— Ohio Rep. Adam Miller
In fact, veterans make up about 12% of the 7,386 state legislators nationwide. Veteran legislators bring their training, commitment and leadership skills to state government from every branch of the military and the National Guard. With 424 members, the New Hampshire General Court is the nation’s largest state legislature; it also includes the largest number of veterans, with 72 members having served in the military. After New Hampshire, the states with the most veterans serving as legislators are Georgia (34), Missouri (30) and Pennsylvania (27). States in which at least 15% of the legislature are veterans include Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming.
“Serving as a state legislator is a natural progression from military service,” says Ohio Rep. Adam Miller, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps who has served multiple deployments overseas. Miller is also a member of NCSL’s Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs.
“The freedoms and values we defend overseas are carried out at the state level,” he says. “We send a loud message to young democracies when we show them the rule of law, democratic institutions, and that our freedoms are carried out as the founders intended. Ultimately, global leadership and service at the state level are two sides of the same coin.”
Veterans in legislatures bring a skill set of determination, respect for institutions and a sense of duty and commitment. Their understanding of the challenges veterans face is reflected in the passage of legislation to provide effective state benefits and services for those veterans, military members and military families in need of assistance, including tuition aid, health and mental health services, housing support, and employment opportunities. The NCSL military and veterans state legislation database includes thousands of bills enacted over the years to assist military veterans and service members.
At the 2021 Legislative Summit in Tampa, Fla., NCSL paid tribute to all veterans, especially those who continue to serve the country in their state legislatures. NCSL’s Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs enables state legislators and legislative staff to share best practices and innovations to assist military service members and veterans in their states, while working with military installations to enact state policy options to support and maintain their presence and military mission.
Turn to NCSL on Nov. 11 and every day as a resource to learn more about the state legislative issues that affect the nation’s service members, veterans and their families. Contact Jim Reed for more information.
Jim Reed staffs the NCSL Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force.