While many people will quickly discount it, there is a growing feeling among many of the nation’s veterans that the average US citizen is so disconnected to the people serving in the armed forces, that they have nothing in common with them. As a result, they are becoming more and more comfortable in only socializing with fellow veterans.
Only 1 percent of the American population is serving in the military. During World War II, that number was nearly 10 times that. But service in the military is becoming familial as many young people eschew service but sons and grandsons of veterans continue to answer the call.
Admiral Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says he’s concerned the military is becoming its own separate class.
“Most American families aren’t connected to the military, don’t have kids that are in the military, don’t have friends that have kids that are in the military,” he said. “This is a little bit of an exaggeration, but it’s almost like the French Foreign Legion.”
Army veteran Anthony Sadler spent more than thirty years in the military, including two deployments to Iraq. But though he’s no longer in the armed services, he still feels most comfortable around people with military backgrounds.
“If you went to another bar, or downtown, or a club, you couldn’t share your feelings about the military,” Sadler said as he smoked a cigarette on the post’s patio.
Sadler has civilian friends through church, but said the VFW is a place where he can be emotionally vulnerable. He said he sometimes talks with his fellow veterans about the harrowing experiences he had during his Army career, which included an assignment at the Abu Ghraib prison and a firefight where a fellow soldier died in his arms.
Those are experiences that non-veterans might not understand.
One study done by a company called Edelman Intelligence said that fewer than 26 percent of the population feels they have anything in common with veterans and many vastly underestimate the education levels of veterans which makes it harder for vets to find suitable employment when their service is done.
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Photo courtesy: US Army