The New American Segregation: The Military
CHICAGO — It seems that I see American soldiers only at airports. Walking forever through O’Hare here, every man and woman in uniform is greeted by the same line: “Thank you for your service.”At American Airlines, military personnel are allowed to board before other economy class passengers, after first class and business class passengers are comfortable in their big chairs.It all makes me cringe. The reason for all this small courtesy is the guilt felt by the rest of us. This small band of brothers and sisters are doing our most difficult work, much of it as unnecessary as it is dangerous.The volunteer military is the new American segregation. They know it and we know it. We also know that sooner or later a detached military will undermine democracy itself. Interestingly, Adm. Mike Mullen, the retiring chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has spent a good deal of his time and energy trying to get this point across to the nation.Mullen’s latest effort was his commencement speech last week at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. “I fear that they do not know us,” said the admiral. “I fear they do not comprehend the full weight of the burden we carry or the price we pay when we return from battle. … A people uninformed about what we are asking the military to endure is a people inevitably unable to fully grasp the scope of the responsibilities our Constitution levies upon them.”“It is not enough today that we deploy,” he said. “It is not enough that we fight. It is not enough today that we serve, unless we also serve the greater cause of American self-government and everything that underpins it.”A month earlier, Mullen had said in a commencement speech at Florida State University:“With less than 1 percent of our population serving, I do worry that one day, the American people and our troops may no longer know each other the way we should. When I consider how much that 1 percent has repeatedly sacrificed, especially our wounded, their families and the families of the fallen, I think it’s worth asking ourselves as Americans whether we’re doing enough to help them and, more broadly, our nation and our community.”
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