The Struggle of a 0.5 Percenter

By Graham Glover

At any given time, there are less than 0.5% of Americans serving in any capacity in the Armed Forces of the United States. Let that sink in for a moment. Less than ½ of 1% of our population is currently serving in any branch – in any component (Active or Reserve) of our military. That is a staggering statistic! That 0.5% preserves the possibility for our democratic republic to survive for the remaining 99.5% is simply mind boggling.

Should this number be different? In other words, should more Americans be required to serve their nation? I’ve written in the past about mandatory military service for all. Conceptually, I still think this a good idea. What better way to give back to the nation that has given us so much than by serving it (even if only for a couple of years)? How better to appreciate the gift of being an American citizen than by putting your life on the line for that privilege? Practically however, I’ve come to think this idea is wrought with problems and undermines the genius of the all-volunteer force.

Even though only 0.5% of our citizens are currently serving, our military system seems to work. Could we use more Soldiers, Sailors, Airman, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen? Probably. Will there come a time when our nation calls on our sons and daughters to serve even when they might not want to? Sadly, I think so. But for now, even as we enter our 16th consecutive year of war, the 0.5% solution works. Our military is the envy of the world and is, without question, the most lethal military force history has ever known.

But being part of the 0.5% is no easy task. Like other vocations, serving in the military has its ups and downs. There are great days and days that you wish never happened. Those that serve obviously deserve our thanks and gratitude. Actually, they deserve much more. But even if we were perfectly loyal to our nation’s warriors, I don’t think the struggle of serving would go away.

The struggle I speak of is not one that we should be ashamed of, or one we need to call others out on. By and large, our nation supports our service members, and offers them numerous benefits that attempt to make up for the countless sacrifices they make. This struggle is not due to a society that is indifferent to what our military does for America and the rest of the world. We know that the American military is the first and last line of defense against tyranny across the globe. We’re it. Plain and simple.

Rather, the struggle I have in mind is one born in a type of naivete. It’s a struggle that service members experience all too often when they engage civilians who are incapable of understanding what it truly means to serve – what it means for them and their families to be constantly prepared to go to war. For the service member, this means a life that is always in flux, from a rigorous training schedule that takes them regularly into the field and away from their loved ones, to a state of being that cannot ever be entirely at ease.

It’s not that civilians can’t comprehend the many threats America faces from our enemies. Our society is keenly aware of these threats and stands ready to flex our nation’s military muscle when necessary. But unless you have served, unless you are serving, it is impossible to grasp the magnitude of the pressure service members and their family members endure as our nation remains at war. Hence, the struggle of the 0.5%. It is a struggle to be understood. A struggle that the vast majority of Americans have not and never will experience.

I’m not sure there is a fix to this struggle. I don’t think those that serve want a “solution” to it. They freely serve our nation and know the realities of this struggle. They know what it means for them and their families. And they’re ok with it. In their own way, they embrace it. They become it. The struggle of serving is part of who they are. But it’s there. For a whopping 0.5% of our population.

5 thoughts on “The Struggle of a 0.5 Percenter

  1. A draft which requires mandatory military service, as we had when I was a young man, actually benefited the country, and it potentially taught important skills of cohesion, patriotism, and teamwork, to a whole generation. Then along came the Vietnam War. This also happened to be at a time when the country was fascinated by sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. The colleges inspired radical politics and anti-government demonstrations. The youth culture of my time shared an interest in the same music, but some of us retained our faith and middle class bourgeois values, avoiding drugs and the harmful excesses promoted by celebrities, leftists, hippies, and so called professors at “institutions of lower learning.”
    I do not believe the country will ever reinstate a draft, and having grown soft and self centered, much of today’s youth simply do not want to consider service to our nation.

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    1. Thanks for that analysis John. Good insight on the topic.

      As I noted, I really like the idea of a draft. I’m completely on board with some type of mandatory public service (of which the military would be one option). I maintain faith in our nation (to include our youth) and pray that it doesn’t take the possibility of losing our freedoms for a new generation to embrace service to our nation.

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  2. I agree with a 2 year draft, but strongly disagree that military service should be an “option.” Non military options can be offered very sparingly to groups who consist of those with moderate disabilities or bonafide conscientious objectors deemed unfit for actual military duties. No General discharges should be offered to military draftees with disciplinary issues. This group can do maintenance, pick up trash, work on government construction projects, but should not be let off the hook and must complete their mandatory service. This would make it clear that military service means exactly what it says. The Israeli military required everyone to serve, and it improved the morale and personal commitment of the entire country. PS. I know this would not happen in our country….the progressives would cry crocodile tears all the way to Congress, and the idea would evaporate like a summer shower.

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  3. G2/John

    I served 4 years, Vietnam era, voluntarily. My draft number was over the horizon – no chance of being drafted. I served anyway – making the fifth consecutive generation in my family to serve.
    I had tech school classmates that went to Nam, I could have gone as well, but instead, I was sent to the ME, where we were in an undeclared, STILL non-publicized war. It was my first and still lasting introduction to the nonsensical pap we are fed about us being the protector of the world. And I vehemently object to gummint forcing anyone to “serve.” That is nothing but emotional blackmail! John – you are old enough to know better!

    I challenge you, Graham, and you, John, to clearly demonstrate from the Constitution or Holy Scripture that we have any business playing the world’s policeman.

    Hint: Neither of you will find it, but rather, the Founders insistence that we NOT become caught up in foreign entanglements. And yet, that’s all we get ourselves into!!! The stupid “War on Terror” is a crock – there have been terrorists since the dawn of time. That was GWB’s gift to the neo-cons – who are only satiated when we are at war with someone/anyone.

    The entire purpose of the American Experiment was to NOT act like the British Empire and try to rule the world. We have become a bigger nuisance world-wide that the Brits ever imagined they could be. We have more foreign entanglements than can possibly be managed, most of which are at cross-purposes with one another, and we sent soldiers off to get maimed or killed for completely un-Constitutional reasons. How is that in any way “Biblical” or Christian? And the astronomical cost in taxes – which have become legalized theft??

    I have no problem with a strong military for the defense of THIS nation. Put our ships along the shore-lines, put our troops along the borders and enforce the immigration laws that have been forever written in stone, and politicians blithely ignore for the sake of getting elected. We have nuclear determents to the max. Our military has no business in the business of 180 different nations (with bases) with often-differing positions from anything American at all. I’ll honor the grunts that go, but only to the extent they are pawns of politicians who rarely permit their own sons to join the military, and as I said, said grunts are either horribly maimed or killed in military actions in which there is ZERO defense of anything American, but some politicians wet dreams of being the New Rome.

    That is decidedly not the Constitutional Republic that American was founded to be. And both of you should know that!

    The old saying – “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” is inaccurate, though instructive. Santayana actually said:

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

    You two, and many other Americans, need to RE-learn your own past, and quit repeating demonstrable lies that have no foundation in truth or facts of history. It seems incredible to me that both of you know so little about your own country;s history, founding, and intent to stay away from the very things you both are advocating!

    Pax – jb

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    1. JB, as always, I appreciate your input on these topics.

      I am curious though why you think my article was a commendation for American interventionism across the globe? Yes, I admit we are involved. Yes, I concede that we are the lone democratic superpower. But I hardly think my commentary (or John’s for that matter) is a call to arms. That we’ve been at war for 16 years is a fact. That these wars aren’t ending anytime soon is almost certainly a fact. That America and Americans will continue to be involved in these wars/conflicts is as well.

      But my article wasn’t about whether we should be as involved as we are. It was about what today’s reality means for those of us who are serving. It was about the incredible stress and demands that being one of the 0.5% puts on service members and their families.

      Could we debate whether we should be as involved militarily as we are today? Sure. Could we argue about whether certain military decisions by our leaders were correct. Absolutely. But this article is not about those topics.

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