Cassi Creek: The old song bemoaning the cyclic inevitability of war gets trotted out, now and then, by an oncoming generation that responds to the message as if they were the generation that discovered the cycle.
The truth is that the nature of American military service and warfare has changed so much that it becomes easy for them to imagine that they did just make that stunning discovery.
I’m 64, an early Baby Boomer, VietNam Veteran. I have ancestors who served in the American Revolution. Most likely, I had ancestors who fought in the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War. It is certain that many of my forebears fought in The Civil War and the Spanish American War. I didn’t know any of these combatants, but I knew of them and considered their service to be normal behavior. I knew my family members who fought in WWI. As with most of my generation, my family served in WWII and Korea. This pattern of service was one of the things that made us Americans, one of the things that made us a strong and mostly cohesive nation. Nearly all Americans could claim to know solders or former soldiers as part of their family.
With me, with my generation, the pattern of national service halts. Now, most Americans have never worn the uniform of the United States. Now, most Americans don’t really know anyone serving in uniform. The military, all volunteer now, has become a group apart from most of the nation. The Washington Post carried the article, linked below, delving more deeply into the military now becoming a separate entity, differing greatly from the rest of the U.S. society and culture.
“Does military service still matter for the presidency?
By John Nagl, Published: May 25
“In every presidential election since 1992, the candidate with the less distinguished military résumé has triumphed.
“Bill Clinton defeated war heroes George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole; National Guard pilot George W. Bush beat Vietnam veterans Al Gore and John Kerry; and Barack Obama was decisively elected over John McCain, who had displayed extraordinary valor during years of captivity as a Navy pilot in North Vietnam.”
John Nagl MAY 25
The connection has been severed.
“In 2012…, For the first time in modern American history, neither major candidate for the presidency has any military experience.
“This is a dramatic change. The crucible of combat not only created these United States but has also given us many of our most successful presidents…
“ there are costs to this all-volunteer military that are not immediately apparent, even on this weekend dedicated to remembering its sacrifices. The disconnect between those who give the orders and those who have no choice but to follow them has never been wider; all Americans salute the same flag, but only a few carry it forward against enemy fire. The military has become a caste apart from the nation it protects, with many of its fighters the sons and daughters of military leaders — a family business that asks much of a few. Service academy alumni journals are full of photos of multi-generational family reunions in combat zones, while most of us do no more to support the troops than stand, remove our caps and cheer when they present the national colors before a baseball game.
Now, nearly 30 years into this experiment with an all-volunteer force, and more than a decade into America’s longest war, the nation will elect a president who has not known the tender courtesies of a drill sergeant at oh-dark-thirty in the morning...”
Cassi Creek: Not mentioned is the development of a peripheral industry, private security and private armies. While these mercenaries have ostensibly been used to pull only non-combat duties, they have migrated into security positions that should, to my way of thinking, be pulled by our official armed forces. These private armies are paid a great deal more than our troops are paid. That should be reversed at the very least. The loyalty of mercenaries is always suspect. Their passports may say U.S. but their job description indicates available to the highest bidder.
This is what it has come down to on Memorial Day 2012. We have a government sanctioned three day weekend to keep us from remembering those who died in service so deeply that we don’t flock to new car sales and to tourist attractions. Our glorious dead are afforded a prayer or speech by the next round of aspiring politicians, to let the voters know how much they care. That small percentage of troops on active duty have a war winding down to contend with until the next war comes around. Meanwhile, the reason for the holiday is lost in the official beginning of summer. As fewer and fewer Americans serve in uniform, the reasons and traditions that honor men and women who heeded the call to duty will be forgotten by most of the nation, and fewer and fewer will be able to remember knowing a family member who wore the nation’s uniform in time of war.
Gone to grave yards everyone!