“His service in Vietnam , while valorous and admirable, cannot be a sole or even primary qualification,” said Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a freshman congressman who served Army tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Former Bush Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, himself a former enlisted soldier in Vietnam, said “it’s tough for me to draw those kinds of parallels” between the Vietnam era and the present day…

“Ironically, way back then, we still thought we were in the business of nation-building,” said Ridge, who supports Hagel’s nomination. “I can’t draw anything specific, but I think the experience in and of itself continues to be relevant.”…

Richard Carmona, the former U.S. surgeon general who ran for Senate as a Democrat in Arizona last year, agreed that the Vietnam experience is “just an added dimension to having worn a uniform and been in a chain of command.”

“Secretary [Robert] Gates never served and he did an exceptional job,” said Carmona, a Purple Heart and Bronze Star honoree who said it could be helpful to have “somebody who understands the trials and tribulations of both warriors in combat and the stresses on the families” at the helm of the Pentagon.