Military veterans are sacred in the eyes of U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, who joined the U.S. Marine Corps in June 2001, soon after graduating from Harvard, and served four tours of duty as an infantry officer in Iraq.
The fifth-term Democratic Congressman, whose 6th District includes Bedford, reflected this week on the 20th anniversary of the start of that conflict.
“As a veteran, what I am thinking about on this anniversary are the Marines I served with – some of the most amazing Americans I ever met,” he asserted, adding, “Many of us had disagreements with the war.”
Moulton also presented another perspective. “The veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan already have an impressive and defining legacy on our country. We helped normalize mental health care by being so honest about post-traumatic stress disorder. The entire country is having this conversation.”
In 2019 the congressman introduced the national suicide hotline (988) designation act, which was signed into law the next year. He said the impetus for the bill was “my experience.”
Moulton was in the first company of Marines to enter Baghdad in 2003, and the following year led an infantry platoon through the Battle of Najaf. He also was part of a small team of Marines developing counterinsurgency operations and served as a special assistant to Gen. David Petraeus. Moulton was twice decorated for valor in Iraq.
“I think there’s a lot of respect for veterans in America today,” Moulton commented. He added, “What concerns me is so many young people say they wouldn’t be willing to serve themselves. They say they don’t agree with everything the government is doing. But it’s the time when you disagree with the government when we need good people to serve.
“We have a new generation of leaders who are more skeptical about going to war because we have seen the cost first hand,” Moulton observed.
Since he was first elected, the Congressman said, “I have been advocating a comprehensive national service program.” In Congress, he noted, “a lot of veterans support this.” He said veterans on both sides of the aisle help “bridge the gap” in a polarized Congress.
Moulton repeated an observation he has made about the ultimate cost of the Iraq war.
“In some ways, most frustrating to me was not the war itself, but after one of the most tragic days in American history – on Sept. 12, 2001 we had the entire world with us, the entire country united. Yet we wasted all that goodwill on invading a foreign country that had nothing to do with 9-11. That was a missed opportunity to do something, to tackle some of the challenges.”
Asked about the role of the United States military in the world today, Moulton commented, it’s “Congress’s job to lead that debate, especially over questions of war and peace.” However, he said, by relying on the 2001 authorization to use military force, “Congress has shirked this responsibility because many members of Congress are too scared to have this debate with and before the American people.”
Recently, however, veterans elected to Congress are saying “we need to do our job. We need to have this debate and determine what America’s role should be.”
Moulton is a member of the House Armed Services Committee where he serves as ranking member on the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.