During his 16-plus-year run at the desk of "The Daily Show," Jon Stewart trafficked in the same military-themed segments as many of his television brethren: He did pushups for charity, he went on a USO tour with a magician and a noted mailman, and he ... did more pushups for charity.
Tests of upper-body strength aside, one of Stewart's unique, lasting contributions to military matters may be his frequent, frustration-filled salvos at the Veterans Affairs Department. He's cranked out several "Daily Show" segments over the years that have have helped spotlight VA problems for a broader audience — an effort that's not gone unappreciated.
"I don't think there's a person in the media who's done more to elevate veterans' issues, and to push for policy change," said Paul Reickhoff, head of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which presented Stewart with the 2013 IAVA Civilian Service Award. "There's a lot of kind of empty clapping going on, but actually understanding the nuance of policy ... things that matter, Jon Stewart's been in a league of his own. And I guess the best example I would give is the [VA] backlog."
Stewart's VA coverage topped the IRS and other entries in a viewer's choice poll, selected as the show's "favorite federal takedown" as part of a career-in-review special. It also made Rolling Stone's list of the host's top targets.
"The least we can do is keep the promises we made to the individuals who have given so much, and I will continue to be an annoyance to the people who do not do that," Stewart said after accepting the IAVA honor.
The coverage even earned its own recurring prop: A super-sized swear jar: April 2014 rant
"We've had a lot of different celebrities at our events; the vets are good at sniffing out who the fakes are," Rieckhoff said. "Jon Stewart is an authentic guy."
Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.