“Out of Mind” by Paul Beston, City Journal
The separation between civilians and the military makes Memorial Day somber in unintended ways.
May 22, 2015
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
Earlier this month, six Marines died in a helicopter crash in Nepal, where they were delivering aid to survivors of April’s massive earthquake. The Marine Corps Times described the lost as “two pilots, two crew chiefs, a combat photographer and a combat videographer.” Two Nepalese soldiers died with them.
A Nebraskan, Captain Dustin R. Lukasiewicz, was a pilot and Afghanistan veteran who leaves behind a child and a pregnant wife. Christopher L. Norgren, from Kansas, was also a pilot; his parents remembered him as an “overachiever.” Sergeant Ward M. Johnson IV, from Florida and California, was a helicopter chief and Afghanistan veteran who leaves behind a wife and two children. Sergeant Eric M. Seaman was a helicopter crew chief from California, another Afghanistan veteran, and a husband and father of two young children. Corporal Sara A. Medina was from Illinois; she was in Nepal to photograph the Marines’ relief efforts, having previously captured their work across Asia and in the United States. Lance Corporal Jacob A. Hug, an Arizonan, was in Nepal to record Marine relief efforts on video, as he had previously done across Asia.
American media covered the deaths of these Marines, all of whom had won honors for their service, but the story of their sacrifice failed to take hold in the popular mind. We’ve grown accustomed to hearing about military deaths, even as the U.S. has largely withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of us gloss over the headlines—I’ve done it, too—because for millions of Americans, the military is an abstraction.
At the heart of this problem is the disconnect between American civilians and the all-volunteer military, the subject of an expansive James Fallows essay in The Atlantic earlier this year. Fallows points out that the entirety of Americans serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, from the beginning of those conflicts to today—many doing multiple deployments—adds up to less than 1 percent of the American population. Compare that with World War II, when nearly 10 percent of the population was in uniform; most American families were touched in some way by military life. Not anymore.
Read the rest of the story here.