We’ve been at war for over ten years, starting with the still-ongoing war in Afghanistan and then the war in Iraq. One would think that the connection between the U.S. military and citizenry would be close, forged during this decade of conflict.
It is true that almost all Americans express pride in our troops and a large majority has thanked someone in the military for their service, according to survey data from the Pew Research Center. Like many Americans, I have personally thanked soldiers for their service to our country, most often when I encounter them in an airport.
Other than that, however, the connection isn’t that close. “A smaller share of Americans currently serve in the armed forces than at any time since the peacetime era between World Wars I and II,” say Pew researchers. A tiny fraction of the populace—about 1/2% to 1%—has served on active military duty in the past ten years. Understanding the problems veterans face is low. What has happened, Pew concludes, is a military-civilian gap. In their report, they quote military historian Rick Atkinson, who says that the military “has become a separate tribe in the republic.”
If you have served in the military, do you agree with Pew’s evaluation?
If you haven’t served, do you see a U.S. military-civilian gap?
If yes, what does it mean going forward?
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Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.