Study shows gap between military, civilians

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Study shows gap between military, civilians
Panelists discuss the Pew Research Center's "War and Sacrifice" study in Washington on Oct. 5, 2011. From left: Peter Mansoor, Rick Atkinson and Vivian Greentree. Photo by Doug Malin

American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong attended a panel discussion on Oct. 5 in Washington that focused on key findings of a Pew Research Center study, "War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era." The study was based on surveys of 2,003 civilian adults and 1,853 veterans - including 712 who have served since 9/11.

The results of the study - which focused on the attitudes of veterans and the general public toward military service, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how Americans are sharing the burdens of a wartime era - didn't come as a surprise to Wong.

Noting that America has sustained a decade of warfare with about one-half percent of its population serving in the military, the study found that about 84 percent of post-9/11 veterans feel the public does not understand problems faced by servicemembers and their families; 71 percent of the public agree.

"There is nothing really surprising or unusual about the results of the study," Wong said. "As a matter of fact, they seem to be an accurate reflection of what we already know. We just didn't have the percentages. With the Legion's involvement in women veterans issues, strategy in Afghanistan and best practices for treating TBI and PTS, we half-expected some of these results already."

The study covered a variety of issues, including sacrifices and burdens created by the global war on terrorism, efficiency of the U.S. military, and how well the civilian community understands military experience.

While 83 percent of the public believe that servicemembers and their families have made many sacrifices since the 9/11 attacks, 70 percent of them also feel that such sacrifices are "just part of being in the military."

"The panelists talked about the gap between servicemembers who are making wartime sacrifices and civilians who are enjoying the benefits of those sacrifices," Wong said. "We always talk about this anyway and present it in our testimony to Congress. Only one-half of 1 percent of Americans are fighting overseas - defending national security for the rest of us."

Panelists for the "War and Sacrifice" discussion included moderator Rick Atkinson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author; retired Army Col. Charles Allen; Vivian Greentree, director of research and policy for Blue Star Families; Peter Mansoor, chair of military history at Ohio State University; and David Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland.

During the panel discussion, Wong said the point was made that civilians may not risk their lives, but they are also making sacrifices. "Civilians are the ones footing most of the bill for our wars and for veterans benefits when they come back, and everything else associated with the war effort," Wong said. "Whether we think that's enough of a sacrifice is open to debate, but every American is affected, is impacted to a degree by the wars we fight."

Wong said one idea brought up during discussion was that the gap of understanding between civilians and the military may be the result of America no longer having a draft, so not as many people have direct contact with our troops.

Mansoor, noted that America has used a military draft for only a few years in its entire history. But because we used a draft during the Vietnam War era, Americans got used to the idea in recent decades. Yet the draft model is not typical in U.S. military history. Mansoor served as Gen. David Petraeus' executive officer in Iraq.

"So what we've done with our all-volunteer force is to actually return to the vision of our founding fathers - that our military would not be a force of conscripts," Wong said.Over the past 20 years, the Pew study says, the profile of America's military forces has shifted. Those serving today are older, better educated and more likely to be married; more women and minorities are in uniform. Deployments have increased in frequency and duration; 38 percent of post-9/11 veterans say they have deployed overseas three times or more.

Despite the increased operational strain on the U.S. military, 82 percent of those who have served since 9/11 oppose bringing back the draft; 74 percent of the public agrees that the Selective Service System should not be used to conscript civilians into the Armed Forces.

For a summary of the study's key findings, click here.

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Mark T Franklin

October 10, 2011 - 3:26pm

having a draft is not the answer, when we had a draft, its like the song by Hank Williams Jr, rich man goes to college, a poor man goes to work---- gets drafted---- so many draft boards made up by local people, kept thier friends and their children out of the draft. also, NCOs do not want anyone who has been forced into the military, it not worth it. there is one alternative,----- manditory military service, after High School. either you go, or no college, no student aid, no work,just jail for the time of service. BUT, the way some young people are today, they would rather sit in jail than serve in the military

desertwst

October 7, 2011 - 12:01am

Re-instituting the draft would accomplish several goals. First, and foremost, it would make it a requirement for thousands and thousands of young people to learn about serving their country. The reason why many individuals are so patriotic is they learned that patriotism serving in the military. There could be a requirement to "serve" in some capacity. The younger generation often has a difficult time making commitments and sticking to them. That is one of the primary results in the military. It is not about doing what you want it is about "duty and country". A lesson which should be extremely important to all young citizens of the United States.

miketierney7

October 6, 2011 - 11:50pm

Wong's assumption that civilians have had to "pay for the war" is just foolish. Our taxes went down and the debt went up. The costs of Iraq and Afghanistan are not even counted in the normal debt discussions. If we all had a surtax on our regular taxes, we would surely take notice. But we do not and no politician would ever suggest such a thing. But we should be pay as we go, not creating a debt. That going to an assignment like Iraq is a pain for an individual or a family should be obvious. But Reserve and Guard are volunteer so every member knows their fate. If someone doesn't like the prospect of a duty assignment in a war zone, then resign. Personally, I was drafted in 1967 and I believe there should be universal conscription. You can have one leg and cook stew or SOS. Medical deferments (4F) should not exist.

markkeillor

October 6, 2011 - 6:56pm

Asking the opinions of those whom have never experienced the draft about their feelings on the draft doesn't make much sense. I and many of my friends served ... and proudly ... because of the draft. Though the desire to serve in the military may be higher with the volunteer force, the human resources at the disposal of the military could never surpass what was available during the draft years. We had college educations, civilian work experience, and most importantly, we represented a full cross section of the American public. I served with law school graduates, high school drop-outs, artists and actors, juvenile delinquents, professional athletes, businessmen, and even Al Gore ... when at Fort Rucker. America might have been at the mall during the Vietnam was as it is today, but there were more families and other civilians realizing how big their stake in the war had become. I could go on for hours.

sfret

October 6, 2011 - 6:08pm

Why do we have studies? A study of social issues is usually slanted towards what somebody wants to hypothesise. Steve Jobs had less than a years education. I have my bachelors. That tells me something. It's time to quit pandering to High Ranking officers after they retire. If you want to know something, find somebody with common sense who couldn't stand the fanny kissing. That's the reason I turned down a chance to go to OCS. I just can't play games based on rank. Jim Laubler Special Forces Retired

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