The pollsters say November’s presidential election is more focused on the economy and domestic affairs than it was in 2004, but don’t say that to the candidates. Not since World War II has a presidential election had such a wide representation of VetFamily members, as three of the four candidates have or will have their sons serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many already know Republican Presidential candidate John McCain’s family lineage of military service has now extended to two of his sons, but the military connection to the Vice Presidential candidates of both parties took centerstage last month at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.
TRACK PALIN: INSPIRED BY 9/11
As he turned 18 last year, Track Palin enlisted in the Army on the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. His formal deployment occurred exactly one year later. Track is the oldest of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s four children and her only son.
"I support my son’s independence, and I am proud of his decision because he made it for the right reasons -- to serve his country," the Republican Vice Presidential Candidate said at the time of his enlistment. Gov. Palin has also been to Kuwait where she visited the Alaska Army National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 297th Infantry, a unit with 575 Alaska men and women.
"He’s just like any other infantry soldier here," said Army Col. Burt Thompson, who heads the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, when Palin was first stationed there after enlistment. "He tries to remain as anonymous as he possibly can."
BEAU BIDEN: SIMULTANEOUS MILITARY AND PUBLIC SERVANT
An intriguing situation is brewing around the deployment of Beau Biden, the son of Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate Joe Biden. First, because he currently holds public office as the Attorney General of Delaware, but secondly he may play into a complicated succession scenario becoming that state’s junior senator if Barack Obama and his father retake the White House. He could replace his father.
"I don’t want him going," Delaware Sen. Joe Biden said back when he was originally running for president. "But I tell you what, I don’t want my grandson or my granddaughters going back in 15 years and so how we leave makes a big difference."
Beau Biden, 39, is the state attorney general. Since he was elected to that post in 2006, he has been viewed in Delaware as a potential inheritor of his father’s Senate seat. But the younger Biden is also a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, and he is scheduled to head to Iraq on Oct. 3 for a deployment of roughly a year.
Biden’s role is expected to be administrative, while speculation has predicted Palin will see action in a dangerous corridor of Northern Iraq.
(Editor’s Note: Beau Biden also serves on the Board of Amtrak, a partner of Veterans Advantage).
FOR THE RECORD
Alternatively, if John McCain wins, it will be the first time since Vietnam for a sitting president to have had family in harm’s way. McCain’s son Jimmy, a Marine, returned earlier this year from Iraq. Another McCain son, Jack, is a senior at the U.S. Naval Academy.
President Lyndon Johnson’s son-in-law, Charles S. Robb, for instance, served as a Marine officer in Vietnam. Dwight Eisenhower was the last sitting president to have a son in a combat zone. John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower served during the Korean War. Theodore Roosevelt and his distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt each had four sons in the military during wartime.
And nearly a dozen young men and women - sons and daughters of members of Congress - have served in Iraq, although critics of U.S. military policy long have argued that too few of the people making the decisions have had family members serving in war zones at the time.