Military-Civilian Gap Continues to Grow and Why It Matters

Repairing front line trench after bomb explosion fifty yards from enemy trenches. D. W. Griffith in civilian clothing. During filming of the motion picture "Hearts of the World" in France (1917) Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

“I fear they do not know us. I fear they do not comprehend the full weight of the burden we carry or the price we pay when we return from battle.” – Adm. Mike Mullen addressing the West Point graduating class Spring 2011.

I began this blog with the mission of bridging that gap of understanding between military families, veterans and civilians. As evidenced by Adm. Mullen’s speech to the cadets, there’s a lot that still needs to be done.

It’s a two-way street. Civilians need to understand the sacrifices at home and abroad made by military service members and their families. But, veterans and military also need to understand civilians’ attitudes, be patient sometimes and help educate when needed.

Why does it matter? Because those who have fought in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom will be living with that “burden,” to quote Adm. Mullen again, for decades to come.

Think about it, the last known WWI combat Veteran, Claude Choules, just died this year, but the war ended 93 years ago.

Care for OEF/OIF Veterans will be needed for decades to come. Yet, if the gap continues to grow and fewer civilians have family military connections, providing Veterans care and fulfilling their needs could become challenging if there’s a lack of understanding of their sacrifice.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center, The Military-Civilian Gap: Fewer Family Connections, found that the gap is growing wider. Some key findings:

  • A smaller share of Americans currently serve in the U.S. Armed Forces than at any time since the peace-time era between World Wars I and II.
  • Afghanistan and Iraq wars are the longest period of sustained conflict in the nation’s history, yet,  just one-half of one percent of American adults has served on active duty at any given time.
  • As the size of the military shrinks, the connections between military personnel and the broader civilian population appear to be growing more distant.
  • Roughly two-thirds of those with family ties to the military say that, since the wars began, they have done something to help someone in the military or a military family. Fewer than half (47%) of those without family ties to the military say they have reached out to help a service person or a military family.
  • Young adults, ages 18-29, are much less likely to have family ties to the military (only 33 percent) compared to adults, ages 50-64, with 79 percent having family military ties.


One Response

  1. The gap between military and civilian life is a sad reality of our times. It is hard to understand the real challenges of military life unless you are personally attached to a service member and experience it first hand. Those of us who are entrenched in military life need to make it a priority to continue the task of informing the civlian community of those challenges.

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