Under the Trump administration, the likelihood that the nation goes to war seems to be at an all-time high. But is it really “the nation” that goes to war these days? The military has been all volunteer for decades, and has grown increasingly segregated from society at large. A few trends stand out in who chooses to serve: The vast majority of service members are male, the South is overrepresented, and perhaps most worrisome, military service has increasingly become a family affair.
Fewer and fewer communities are bearing the burden of sending loved ones to war. One consequence of the end of conscription is the ability to have very few Americans impacted by or connected to service, and a society that struggles to understand and interact with those who do. Less than 1% of Americans serve on active duty at any time, and the veteran population comprises less than 10% of the population. The best ambassadors for military service are those who have served themselves, so it should come as no surprise that the armed forces have become increasingly insular.
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