The military is only the first career stop for most service members.
After serving honorably for 20 or so years, slipping into a pair of slacks, buttoning up a dress shirt and cinching up a tie every day becomes the norm.
There are a lot of jobs that are well-suited for veterans. Some veterans decide to go back to school and become health care providers, educators, information technology experts or business leaders. Others stay connected to federal service by becoming government contractors or civil servants in career fields similar to what they did on active duty. And some become politicians.
Veterans are scattered across the quirky, confusing and complex spectrum of politics. Along with the familiar names (Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina among those on one side of the aisle, former Massachusetts senator and Secretary of State John Kerry among those on the other), there are hundreds more involved in state and local politics.
I’ve been asked numerous times whether I believe veterans make good politicians. My answer is always a resounding “Yes.”
The same personal characteristics that result in successful military careers translate easily into politics. Honesty, loyalty and sacrifice are just a few of the many traits that serve both fields well.
In general, veterans maintain a higher degree of psychological flexibility than the average person. The ability to respect and consider opposing points of view and using those competing points in making decisions is a must for military leaders and politicians.
Unfortunately, many who serve in politics, which is not unlike society as a whole, maintain very rigid views about how things should be. This rigidity leads to stalemates and stymies compromise and progress.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a veteran who served for a couple of decades who doesn’t possess at least a moderate degree of confidence. No other career field promotes strength, resolve and assuredness better than the military. People want to follow those who exude confidence. And when you combine motivated followers with confident and competent leaders, there is no limit to what can be accomplished.
One of the most important characteristics of a successful politician is selfless service … although if you watch or read the news, you probably wouldn’t know it. The ultimate responsibility of the politician is to serve the best interests of the people. Likewise, an effective military leader puts the needs of his troops first while ensuring the “mission” succeeds.
There are a lot of different jobs out there that are good fits for veterans. Politics is one of them. In fact, in my humble opinion, I think our best politicians are those who are able to exploit what they’ve learned in the military and apply it to serving those who put them in office. Our country needs more veterans at the helm.
Bret A. Moore, Psy.D., is a board-certified clinical psychologist who served two tours in Iraq. He is the co-author of "The Posttraumatic Growth Workbook." This column is for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey specific psychological or medical guidance.