The four women in the House of Representatives with military experience – three freshmen congresswomen and one candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination — announced the formation Wednesday of a new caucus that will focus on the issues faced by women in uniform, past and present.
But the Servicewomen and Women Veterans Congressional Caucus won’t be limited to the quartet of Democratic representatives: Caucus chair Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Elaine Luria of Virginia, and Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey. Fifty-one members of the House have joined the group, representing both parties and including members without military backgrounds.
“We are here to enact change to better support the brave women who have answered the call to serve,” Houlahan said during a Wednesday press event in Washington, D.C. She recounted her own service story as a young Air Force officer and mother-to-be serving near Boston.
Thanks to high costs in the area and little guidance from leadership at the time, “I couldn’t personally figure out how I was supposed to make child care work and fulfill my military responsibilities to serve our country,” Houlahan said. She separated from service soon after.
Left, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) meets with MOAA member Col. Harold Cooney, USA (Ret.), during MOAA's annual Storming the Hill event April 10. Right, Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) speaks at the Virginia Council of Chapters annual Virginia delegate luncheon April 30. (MOAA staff photos)
Serving as vice-chairs of the caucus are:
- Gabbard, a major in the Hawaii National Guard who has served two Middle East deployments, is in her fourth term in the House, and is one of more than two dozen major announced candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.
- Luria, who served 20 years in the Navy, retiring as a commander, and represents Virginia’s second congressional district.
- Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot and Russian policy officer in her first term representing New Jersey’s 11th congressional district.
Along with issues facing currently serving women such as child care concerns, increased reports of sexual assault, and the opening of combat roles to all in uniform, the caucus will address veterans’ needs, as the VA adjusts to a rapid increase in the number of woman veterans. Women make up 11.6 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, according to VA statistics, and as a group, they are younger than their male counterparts – 51.3 percent born after 1970, compared with 48 percent of men.
The House group does not involve the three women veterans now serving in the Senate: Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and Martha McSally (R-Ariz).