The chimera of a war-vet voting bloc

In 1943, I was not drafted to be a veteran. I was drafted to be in World War II. Now presidential candidates fall over themselves to enlist me as a veteran.

Vietnam vet John Kerry says he'll never let me down because he came to see the war he'd fought in as wrong. National Guard vet and war president George Bush woos me as a war president with his dental records to prove we're buddies. Non-vet Howard Dean (before he left the race this week), invited me to join Veterans for Dean.

I haven't always been lumped into a homogenized target of opportunity. Oh, there were Veterans for Eisenhower, too, but they were just part of the crowd saying "I Like Ike" in that cute cartoon campaign ad. For years there were so many vets that they had to organize to catch a politician's eye. Now veterans, organized or not, are supposed to be a voting bloc as stereotypical as NASCAR dads, soccer moms, or any group buttonholed in the exit polls.

But veterans are made, not born. When I think of the motley (in the best sense) crew in our Okinawa tent I can't imagine we'd march to the same drummer except on parade. Sometimes we barely spoke the same language.

My fellow feeling for them is as folks in the same boat with ways and skills and outlooks all their own. Why were we in uniform? Not to be lined up as generic veterans saluting an election year.

How about Codgers Who Never Got Used to Casual Friday? Now there's a voting bloc.

Roderick Nordell is a former editor at the Monitor.

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