During times of war it is interesting to note our political representatives’ military backgrounds. I’m pretty sure that all of our local politicians, because of their Republican Party affiliation, support the war effort. And it’s always easier—and safer—to get behind the troops by leading the war cheers from the sidelines than it is to actually join the troops on the battleground. I got to thinking about this lately for a couple of reasons. First, I notice that Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, is a staunch supporter of the president’s Iraq policy and even appeared in an ad (non-paid, non-political) that ran in the Enterprise-Record the day after the bombs started falling. The congressman himself never actually served in the military, even though he turned 18 in the early 1960s, just as things in Vietnam were beginning to get interesting for the U.S. Army. Herger, a peaceful fellow, neither joined the military nor was he conscripted into service. (Remember the draft?) He had deferments—he was a father, an only son and enjoyed what was then called a “farm deferment.”

Then this week we got a press release from Sen. Rico Oller’s office. The release said Oller, R-Granite Bay, was taking part in a “symbolic ‘yellow ribbon’ event by tying ribbons to trees” in the town of Galt. “This event is about real America and we speak for the thousands and millions of people who believe as we do: that it is right, it is our duty, to defend our freedom,” Oller said in the release. So I called Oller’s office to ask about his military duty. Aide Bill Bird answered. I introduced myself and said I was taking a quick survey. “What is Sen. Oller’s military background?” I asked. “Uh,” Bird said, “I don’t think he’s ever been in the military. Let me check and see. That is a good question.” After a short silence he returned. “Nope. Never been in the military. He’s a strong supporter, though, of our troops.” Indeed.

Next I called Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale. A woman answered. “Can you tell me about Assemblyman LaMalfa’s military record?” I asked. The woman said, “Just a moment,” and David Reade, the assemblyman’s chief of staff, picked up the phone “No,” he said. “Never served.” I asked the obvious: “He supports the troops, though, right?” Reade assured me he did. “He supports the troops and the commander and chief and believes in the military effort,” Reade explained. “And those three things are inextricable.” Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, didn’t serve in the military either, according to his office. I learned the senator is exactly 10 years older than me. He turned 18 in 1964, a perfect age to have turned yourself into Vietnam cannon fodder. We can only assume that, just like Herger, Aanestad had something going for him at the time. Maybe it was the little-known “future dentist deferment.”

When I called Assemblyman Rick Keene’s office, I was transferred to his chief of staff, Cliff Wagner. Keene didn’t serve, either, though I can honestly say I’ve never heard the Chico-based assemblyman drumming up the war. But I did learn that Wagner had served four years in the Army beginning in 1985 and is still on active reserve. “I make up for all of them,” he said. Yes sir.

I didn’t serve in the military. Keene and I are close to the same age. By the time we turned 18, Vietnam had pretty much soured most of America on the military. I’m not saying Keene doesn’t support the war, but if he’s keeping his cheerleading to himself, I understand.