President Eisenhower’s Commission on Veterans’ Pensions–the Bradley Commission—voiced concern in 1956 that if exclusive emphasis was placed on granting generous post-service benefits to prospective soldiers, then military service would become a mere negotiated economic relationship between the citizen and the state. On the eve of transitioning to the All-Volunteer Force nearly a decade later, the New York Times expressed a similar fear—that using postwar benefits as allurements for recruits shattered the concept of democratic civic virtue and civic duty embodied in military service. If unchecked, they feared the practice would create a “permanent privileged class of veterans, a postwar mercenary class uncongenial to the national heritage” that would “solidify…the concept of veteran versus citizen.”
Over the space of forty-two years, the last fourteen of which the United States has spent sending those military recruits to war, such fears have not materialized. Perhaps surprisingly, much the opposite has occurred. The Pew Research Center’s 2011 survey of the military, “War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era”, found that 58 percent of post 9/11 veterans say that the terrorist attacks were an important reason why they volunteered. In the “After the Wars: Survey of Iraq and Afghanistan Active Duty Soldiers and Veterans” conducted in 2013 by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family foundation, 89 percent of respondents declared that if they had the chance to make the decision again, they would choose to join the military, even considering everything they now knew about military service. And the comprehensive 2014 Annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey released by Blue Star Families showed 91 percent of its respondents believed in the importance of serving in the military or other national service.
When asked directly about their motivation for having joined, 95 percent of service members answered the Lifestyle Survey with “to serve my country,” while 74 percent colored that answer by responding that “they also joined to receive educational benefits,” and 63 percent joining also “to learn skills for civilian jobs.” But the motivation to serve the country does not end when those soldiers, sailors, and airmen replace their uniform with civvies. As the National Conference on Citizenship in partnership with Got Your 6 demonstrated earlier this year with their first-ever Veteran Civic Health Index, veterans of military service strengthen communities by volunteering, voting, engaging in local governments, helping neighbors, and participating in community organizations. And, their study shows, veterans do so at higher rates than their non-veteran counterparts.
This is not the least demonstrated by the amount of veterans currently holding public office. Reflecting their retracting numbers in the overall population, it is true that veterans are a decreasing presence in the halls of government. In 1971, veterans made up 72 percent of members in the House of Representatives, and 78 percent of the Senate. In 1991, the number of veterans in Congress dropped to 48 percent. The 114thCongress features a Senate with 20 percent of its members as veterans and a House with 18 percent, split 70 percent Republican and 30 percent Democratic in the former, 75 percent Republican and 25 percent Democratic in the latter. Across the 50 states, 7 governors and 4 lieutenant governors have military experience (Governors: Robert Bentley, AL-R; Rick Scott, FL-R; Nathan Deal, GA-R; Butch Otter, ID-R; Terry Branstad, IA-R; Steven Beshear, KY-D; Gary Herbert, UT-R; Lt. Governors: Tim Griffin, AK-R; Mike Stack, PA-D; Matt Michels, SD-R; Ralph Northam, VA-D); out of 1,957 state senators, 249 share military service. Even with these reduced numbers, however, our legislators are still more likely to be veterans than the general population.
At a White House ceremony on November 12, President Obama will award the Medal of Honor to retired Army captain Florent Groberg. When the president fastens the medal’s light-blue ribbon behind Groberg’s neck, Obama will be doing more than honoring a single American hero. He will be reaffirming what has become a national commitment to honor a distinctive kind of heroism. Groberg, like other recent recipients of the nation’s highest military honor, risked his life to save the lives of others.
The Pentagon Friday announced the death of Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, a soldier who had been serving in Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq. He died of wounds received during a hostage rescue mission.
The recent outrage over reports of systematic child rape by Afghan security forces may be justified, but sadly there is little novelty to the reports themselves. Even the Sunday New York Times article that brought the matter into public view cited a list of earlier dispatches addressing it: articles in the Times itself in 2002 and 2011, as well as a 2010 Frontline documentary, “The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan,” that explored at length the pedophilic practice of bacha bazi—the keeping of boys by Pashtun men for sex.
Disputes between the political appointees who run the Pentagon and the military officers who serve there are not unheard of, but the nastiness and public nature of the fight over women in combat being waged between Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and the Marines who answer to him is unprecedented in recent memory.
“We have already cut defense … about 30 percent over the last 10 years, and we’re still at war. We’re actively involved on multiple continents in real combat operations. We should not be drastically reducing our troop levels.”
The following is an excerpt from a fact sheet prepared by Omri Ceren of the Israel Project that explains the significance of the Obama administration’s latest concession to Tehran—the reported collapse on the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.
A top commander in southwest Asia reminded U.S military personnel stationed in Muslim countries in the Middle East of the restrictions placed on them during Ramadan. According to a report by the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs, Brig. Gen.