The sacrifices of the military are lost on most Americans. It has become customary to thank those serving in the military for their service. What are we thanking them for?
The military is war weary. Deployments are more frequent and conflicts seem interminable—now decades long (Stop-Loss, 2008). Prolonged military sequestration is showing up in equipment failure and training lapses. For most citizens this fact is lost on them. While there are close to 1.4 million people serving in the U.S. armed forces, this amounts to .04% of the American population. Unless one lives in or near Fayetteville, North Carolina, Fort Hood, Texas or Coronado, California the rhythm and cost of military life is unknown.
Young Americans between 18 and 29—the millennial generation—have made the transition into adulthood during the single longest period of continuous war in American history. Surprisingly, their interest in military service has remained steady despite the improved economy and a fading sense of patriotism since 9/11. What attract millennials to the military are things like education, travel, teamwork, and being a part of something larger than themselves.
The Pentagon uses a “propensity” poll to determine potential interest in military service: “How likely is it that you will be serving in the military in the next few years?” Recent results among millennials is 19%, which is not far from the peak of 23% in 2003.