Below is a lengthy excerpt from David Zucchino and David S. Cloud’s “Special Report: U.S. Military and Civilians Are Increasingly Divided,” in Los Angeles Times, May 24, 2015:
Multi-generational military families like the Graveses form the heart of the all-volunteer Army, which increasingly is drawing its ranks from the relatively small pool of Americans with historic family, cultural or geographic connections to military service.
While the U.S. waged a war in Vietnam 50 years ago with 2.7 million men conscripted from every segment of society, less than one-half of 1% of the U.S. population is in the armed services today — the lowest rate since World War II. America’s recent wars are authorized by a U.S. Congress whose members have the lowest rate of military service in history, led by three successive commanders in chief who never served on active duty.
Surveys suggest that as many as 80% of those who serve come from a family in which a parent or sibling is also in the military. They often live in relative isolation — behind the gates of military installations such as Ft. Bragg or in the deeply military communities like Fayetteville, N.C., that surround them.
The segregation is so pronounced that it can be traced on a map: Some 49% of the 1.3 million active-duty service members in the U.S. are concentrated in just five states — California, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia.
The U.S. military today is gradually becoming a separate warrior class, many analysts say, that is becoming increasingly distinct from the public it is charged with protecting.
As the size of the military shrinks, the connections between military personnel and the broad civilian population appear to be growing more distant, the Pew Research Center concluded after a broad 2012 study of both service members and civilians.
Most of the country has experienced little, if any, personal impact from the longest era of war in U.S. history. But those in uniform have seen their lives upended by repeated deployments to war zones, felt the pain of seeing family members and comrades killed and maimed, and endured psychological trauma that many will carry forever, often invisible to their civilian neighbors.
Today’s military enjoys a lifestyle that in many ways exceeds that of much of the rest of the country: regular pay raises and lavish reenlistment bonuses, free healthcare, subsidized housing and, after 20 years of service, generous retirement benefits unavailable to many other Americans.
Senior officers live in large houses, travel on their own planes and oversee whole continents with little direction from Washington. Special-operations teams carry out kill missions and drone strikes — some even targeting U.S. citizens — that most civilians never even hear about.
H/t CODA’s M.S.