Ryan pick cements lack of military service in presidential race
By KEN DILANIAN | Tribune Washington Bureau | Published: August 11, 2012
WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan makes this the first presidential election in 80 years in which no one on either ticket has served in the military.
The last time that happened was 1932, before the United States helped win World War II and became a military superpower.
Despite the martial pageantry of Romney’s introducing Ryan on Saturday aboard the battleship Wisconsin, the lack of a veteran in the race underscores the growing distance between today’s all-volunteer military and the vast majority of society which lacks contact with it.
In 1932, John Nance Garner joined Franklin D. Roosevelt’s campaign against then-President Herbert Hoover and Charles Curtis. Roosevelt had served as assistant secretary of the Navy, but that is a civilian position.
This is also the first election since 1944 in which neither of the major party presidential candidates has spent time in the armed forces.
The military draft had long been abolished by the time Ryan and President Barack Obama turned 18.
Vice President Joe Biden was deemed medically ineligible in 1968 during the Vietnam War due to a history of asthma.
Romney received four draft deferments for being a college student and then for doing mission work in France for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
None of them volunteered for service.
In recent elections at least one of the major party candidates had served.
John McCain, shot down as a Navy flier, was held prisoner and tortured in Vietnam. John Kerry fought in Vietnam and George W. Bush served in the Air National Guard.
Al Gore was a specialist in the Army and saw combat as a military journalist. Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush fought in World War II; Bush was shot down and Dole was seriously wounded. Walter Mondale was an Army corporal from 1951-53; Ronald Reagan was an Army captain and Jimmy Carter spent time as a lieutenant in the Navy.