Why US veterans voted 2-to-1 for Donald Trump

Although it wasn't proclaimed a legal holiday until 1938, Veterans Day -- originally known as Armistice Day -- was introduced in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson in celebration of the end to World War I.

Almost 100 years later, exit polls show key swing-state counties with high veteran populations may have been crucial in securing a victory for President-elect Donald Trump.

According to CNN exit polls, veterans voted at a 2-1 ratio for Trump over Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. In Ohio, North Carolina and Florida -- battleground states rich with military history -- a number of counties pulled for Trump at numbers higher than those John McCain and Mitt Romney candidates had over President Obama in 2008 and 2012.

RELATED: See social reactions to Donald Trump's comments on military sexual assault

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Social reactions to Trump's comments on military sexual assault
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Social reactions to Trump's comments on military sexual assault
#Trump solution to sexual assault in military- 'Something has to be happen'. Wow- what a brilliant leader! (cue sarcasm)#NBCNewsForum
@lizbethanne I find it hard to be outraged anymore. I mean Trump said sexual assault was a result of putting men and women together today.
Trump, as a soldier for 19 years, WHAT I EXPECT is for male soldiers to be held accountable for SEXUAL ASSAULT CRIMES. #NBCNewsForum
Trump now defending his tweet saying "what do you expect when you put men and women together" re military sexual assault. #CinCForum
2013 post from Trump on military sexual assault that he claims tonight was a "correct tweet" https://t.co/q8N3EuHNUI https://t.co/Em8xIcTX04
So @realDonaldTrump thinks women should expect to be sexually assaulted in the military? Shameful. #NBCNewsForum
Trump wants to replace generals, institute a (new) military justice system, & seems indifferent to sexual assault in the military. Aaaaaaarg
"Something has to be happened." -- Donald Trump when asked about military sexual assault
Trump calls military sexual assault a "massive problem," says he'd "come down very, very hard on that" but leave court system w/in military.
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U.S. census data shows about 7 percent of the nation's population has served in the military, making it a key demographic both 2016 presidential candidates vied to win over.

Clinton has an extensive track record working with the military, and spoke to that experience throughout her campaign.

As first lady, the Democratic nominee worked to investigate reports of an illness that affected veterans of the Gulf War, which became known as the Gulf War syndrome. In 2003, Clinton became the first U.S. senator from New York to serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and would go on to pass bills like the Heroes of Home Act of 2006, which helped family members care for veterans that return home with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries. In a display of bipartisan effort, she worked with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham to provide full military health benefits to National Guard members and reservists.

As secretary of state under President Obama, Clinton oversaw foreign affairs, giving her a deeper contextual understanding of military operations.

Clinton's track record, though, may have ended up doing more damage than good.

After a drawn out Iraq War, the highly-publicized Benghazi hearings and years of what many see as an unchanged Washington hierarchy, an August Washington Post piece notes Trump offered veterans "a refreshing alternative to 15 years of seemingly endless conflict marked by uncertain goals, fleeting victories and constant personal sacrifice."

SEE ALSO: Candid conversations: Military life

While President-elect Trump was the embodiment of change for many voters this election, his road to winning over veterans was not without potholes.

Trump received five draft deferments, four for attending college and one for a bone spur diagnosis, during the Vietnam War. Despite his own inexperience in combat, Trump attacked Sen. John McCain in 2015, saying the Arizona Republican and prisoner of war was "not a war hero" because he had been captured in Vietnam.

After the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan -- a Muslim U.S. soldier who was killed in Iraq -- spoke of their son at the Democratic National Convention, Trump struck controversy again with comments about Khan's mother who he said "maybe wasn't allowed to have anything to say."

In October, he remarked on soldiers suffering from PTSD at an event hosted by the Retired Veteran Warriors PAC saying, "a lot of people can't handle it."

Despite these controversies, Trump boasted an outpour of support from U.S. veterans. Trump won Ohio's Montgomery County, home to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, 48.4 percent to 47.1. Montgomery County voted in favor of Obama in both 2008 and 2012.

RELATED: Veterans on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor

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NTP: Veterans on Pearl Harbor anniversary
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Clinton did take North Carolina's Cumberland County, home to the Army's Fort Bragg and 42,000 veterans. It could be seen a major accomplishment in garnering veteran support to take the county harboring the world's largest military base, but the Democratic nominee only beat Trump 56.7 percent to 40.7 percent -- a margin smaller than Obama's in both 2008 and 2012. He beat McCain 58.9 percent to 41.1 percent in 2008 and Romney 59.5 percent to 39.8 percent in 2012.

See more on the election:

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Donald Trump heads to the polls
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Donald Trump heads to the polls
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 8: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump departs after voting at the Beckman Hill International School in New York City. After a contentious campaign season, Americans go to the polls today to choose the next president of the United States. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his wife Melania prepare to submit their ballots at a polling station in a school during the 2016 presidential elections on November 8, 2016 in New York. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (C) waves after casting his vote with daughter Ivanka Trump (L) and her daughter Arabella Rose Kushner on Election Day at PS 59 November 8, 2016 in New York City. Trump's marathon final two days of campaigning marched through 10 cities in two days, stretching into Election Day. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump vote at PS 59 in New York, New York, U.S. November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs lists November 11 as "a celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good." As the majority of voting veterans enter the post-election season seemingly happy with results, eyes are now on Trump's many campaign promises with a focus on veteran healthcare that starts with firing officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In July of 2016, Trump spoke to a crowd at the Veterans of Foreign Wars conference asserting he would be the best commander-in-chief that veterans have ever seen.

"Our debt to you is eternal," Trump said. "Yet our politicians have totally failed you."

By Christina Gregg

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