BRIDGING THE CIVIL-MILITARY DIVIDE
In a nation as diverse and dynamic as the United States, it's essential to recognize the sacrifices and contributions of its veterans. However, startling statistics reveal a growing gap between the military and civilian populations. With fewer Americans serving in the armed forces, the profound impact of military service and its significance to the nation's democracy risk being forgotten. This blog sheds light on the diminishing veteran population, the challenges this poses, and why all Americans must bridge the civil-military divide.
A Shrinking Veteran Population
Did you know that less than 7 percent of Americans are veterans? And even more striking, less than 0.6 percent of Americans are retired from the Military. The numbers are eye-opening, reflecting a profound shift in the demographics of those who have served in the armed forces. Between 2000 and 2018, the number of veterans in the United States declined by about one-third, from 26.4 million to 18.0 million. This decline is particularly evident in the dwindling numbers of the "Greatest Generation," with fewer than 500,000 World War II veterans alive in 2018, down from a staggering 5.7 million in 2000.
The Emerging Gap
The dwindling number of veterans has led to a significant gap between the military and civilian populations. Many Americans may not realize that the veterans of the Korean War and the Vietnam War are rapidly leaving us as these veterans pass away; their stories, experiences, and lessons learned from their service risk being lost to future generations. This trend is projected to continue. By 2046, estimates suggest that the veteran population will have decreased by about 35%, leaving only around 12.5 million veterans. Such a reduction carries profound implications for the collective understanding of military service in the United States.
The Danger of a Widening Divide
As the veteran population shrinks, three critical challenges emerge:
Loss of Perspective: With fewer veterans to explain the significance of military service, the younger generations might lose sight of the values and sacrifices associated with it.
Diminished Connection: The gap between the military and civilian populations can lead to a lack of understanding and empathy. The shared experiences that bridge these worlds may fade away.
Civil-Military Divide: Perhaps most alarmingly, the civil-military divide widens. This divide poses a danger to a democratic society, as the Military's role is to be tightly connected to the broader citizenry.
The Importance of Every Voice
In this changing landscape, every veteran's voice is crucial. If veterans remain silent and fail to share their experiences, there's a risk that their stories will be lost, leaving a void in the understanding of military service. Each veteran can inspire Americans by sharing their unique perspectives, dispelling myths, and shedding light on the day-to-day realities of military life. Even though not all veterans have combat experience, their contributions in support roles are equally valuable and worth sharing.
Bridging the Divide
It's clear that the civil-military divide must be addressed for the well-being of the nation's democracy. To bridge this gap, veterans must not be silent. By sharing their stories, insights, and perspectives, they can help their fellow citizens better understand the sacrifices and challenges of military service.
The declining veteran population is a wake-up call for all Americans. The stories and experiences of veterans hold immense value, not just for preserving history but for strengthening the connections that bind a nation together. It's time for veterans to step forward, inspire their fellow citizens, and ensure that the lessons of military service are never forgotten. By doing so, we can help close the civil-military divide and uphold the principles that make America a true democracy.
Census Bureau Releases New Report on Veterans, June 2, 2020
The Changing Face of America’s Veteran Population, April 5, 2021