By MAJOR BEN CARPENTER (RET)
My military career spanned five presidential elections and four mid-term elections. Four of those elections I was enrolled in a military school. Another four I was deployed or preparing to deploy to the sandbox. Even under circumstances where my focus clearly wasn’t on politics, voting remained important to me.
It was a wise NCO who helped me early on in my career frame my dual status as military member and American citizen. Our constitutional republic only works if Americans perform their civic duty to vote and my oath to defend the constitution didn’t excuse me from my civic duty.
Throughout my time in uniform, voting was important enough that the chain of command always made it a priority. At every installation I was stationed at, unit commanders assigned voting assistance officers and NCO’s tasked with the responsibility to help educate soldiers and airmen on how to cast their vote.
During unit formations, the obligatory safety briefing by commanders also included words about the importance of voting. One such message I remember made an impact on me. For one moment in the purposeful life of all service members, the act of voting connects each of us with civilians from “home.” Or the local population where we are stationed. Whether voting by absentee ballot, or in person, this simple act serves as a reminder that our military is subordinate to the civilian population and remaining connected to the cares and concerns of that population is important. It’s also a reminder that service members have a say in the policies affecting their lives around the installation they serve at.
What the voting assistance officers couldn’t do was promote specific candidates. For the big national races that usually wasn’t a problem. Plenty of airtime, mailers, and other advertisements identified the national candidates. But the state-wide and local races were a little more difficult to follow.
For the JBER community this election there is one candidate for the Alaska House of Representatives who uniquely understands the local issues and the military lifestyle. That’s because he’s one of you.
First Lieutenant David Nelson serves with the Alaska Army National Guard. He is seeking re-election to the State House and your trust in him is not misplaced. I have served with him for two years and I have observed him to be a champion for veteran issues, an opponent of a state income tax, a defender of the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend, and an enthusiastic promoter of the military family.
Rep. Nelson sponsored legislation signed into law this year allowing civilian employers to grant an employment preference to spouses and dependents of servicemembers, including surviving spouses and dependents. Representative Nelson co-sponsored legislation that would enable spouses of servicemembers who are licensed or credentialed in another state to receive a temporary license from the State of Alaska while working to receive a permanent state license. This would have improved opportunities for spouses of servicemembers to obtain employment had it passed the Senate. Perhaps we can pass it next year with Rep. Nelson’s help.
Representative Nelson lives in North Muldoon and understands base life and the challenges service members face living off-base. If you have kids in Alaska schools or you’re a spouse who works in the economy, your JBER voice matters. If you benefit from the Alaska PFD and oppose a state income tax, your JBER voice matters. If you enjoy Alaska’s vast wilderness while you are here or intend to ETS and make Alaska your forever home, your JBER voice matters. Rep. David Nelson is JBER’s effective voice in the State House, and he needs your vote by absentee ballot or in person on Nov. 8.
Major Ben Carpenter represents the northern Kenai Peninsula in the State House. Major Carpenter served on active duty with both the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army and retired from the Alaska Army National Guard in 2018. He resides in Nikiski on his peony farm with his family.