In a September 8, 2017 op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune, retired Navy SEAL Lieutenant Commander Ed Hiner wrote about the American military becoming a “family business” — and he is right, sadly.
Hiner’s point, citing data available on who serves in our all-volunteer military, is that fewer and fewer American families are shouldering the burden of military service in America. He points out, for example, that “Pentagon research found that 80 percent of new troops come from a family in which at least one parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, sibling or cousin served in the military.” Furthermore, Hiner notes that less than 0.5 percent of the population of the United States currently serves in the military, and contrasts that with the 12 percent that served during World War II.
Hiner also notes that our national leaders — largely — no longer serve in the military before assuming public office at the highest levels. He points out that George H.W. Bush, elected in 1992, was the last sitting U.S. president to serve abroad, on active duty, in the American military.
These are staggering — and depressing — statistics, and they point to a general falling off of the American citizenry when it comes to military service. They also point to the fact that we apparently no longer value military service in our national leaders. Hiner writes that, “It used to be considered an honor and a responsibility to serve in war for your country.” We also used to expect our leaders to do so, as well.
It seems that is no longer the case, sadly, and as a result, our most ambitious and talented leaders no longer find it worth their while to trouble themselves with military service. It simply is not a hoop they need jump through to get where they want to go in life.
Hiner also notes the relatively large number of Navy SEALs, in particular, who come from families that have produced multiple members of that community. This author’s own family is an example, as there are currently four of us who have served as SEALs, and others coming up who are also interested in that path.
While that might be understandable as a phenomenon, given that families with members who are SEALs can guide their kin in how to approach the SEAL training program and career, and successfully complete BUD/S (though they can in no way help with the mental drive required to make it through BUD/S), such a phenomenon should not be required to keep the ranks of the Navy SEALs filled (or the ranks of the military, for that matter).
In short, as Hiner rightly points out, we need to again foster a desire to serve in this country. Collectively, we need to teach our children that military service in America is a good and noble thing, that will instill a pride of ownership and vested interest in their country. Only then can we reverse this trend.
We must also once again expect and desire our national leaders to have served. Only in that way can they then truly understand the challenges they ask our sons and daughters to undertake abroad, in war. As a nation, we deserve that and are justified in expecting it.
Featured image courtesy of Wikipedia.