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The Widening Gap Between Military Personnel and Civilians | U.S. PATRIOT NEWS & REVIEWS

The Widening Gap Between Military Personnel and Civilians

One thing that always startles Brits is how Americans treat their military. Practically every major attraction seems to offer a discount for military personnel and veterans. When people see someone in uniform, they take time to thank them for their service. I’ve heard stories of soldiers trying to pay in a restaurant and finding that some anonymous benefactor has already settled it for them. It’s weird but touching; most Americans genuinely appreciate what their armed forces do for them. Despite that, however, the gulf between the military and civilians has never been so wide.

When I first put on a uniform in the late 1980s there was still a very real threat from Irish Republican terrorism, and the British Army had spent the past twenty years adapting to that. If you were driving anywhere in uniform, you put a civilian jacket on over the top; travelling by air, you packed your military gear and wore civilian clothes. Soldiers routinely varied their routes to work, checked under their cars for IEDs and hid their profession as much as possible when off duty. Razor wire went up around barracks and large military communities, where the public used to have fairly free access, were suddenly ringed with fences and checkpoints. As the memories of the National Service draft faded, the military, faced with the constant risk of answering the doorbell and finding a Marxist psychopath with an AK, slowly retreated behind anonymity and chain link barriers.

HandshakeAmerican soldiers don’t face anything like the level of routine terrorism that PIRA presented but, for different reasons, they’re also engaged in the same slow retreat into a parallel society. Americans are admirably willing to thank and support soldiers, but do they really understand them anymore? The draft is gone and it’s not coming back; there’s no place in a modern professional army for large numbers of unenthusiastic conscripts. That means the USA’s armed forces are self-selecting and the evidence suggests they’re selecting themselves from an increasingly narrow pool. Around 80% of new enlistees already have a parent or sibling in the military and often they grew up on a base or in a military town.

There’s also a cultural disconnect between those who serve and those who haven’t. Civilians, in general, don’t really understand people who’re willing to give up so much control over their own lives. They don’t grasp the concept of always being ready to, at a moment’s notice, pick up your rucksack and walk away from your family for a year. They don’t even really understand the way soldiers talk anymore; often it seems like an impenetrable soup of acronyms, jargon and shared assumptions about the world. The military, in turn, is baffled by the nation’s incomprehension and retreats into its comfort zone.

In a democracy there’s always going to be a gap between those who serve and the ones they protect, but it’s in everyone’s interests to keep that gap as small as possible. The public’s opinion can swing with terrifying speed, and another unpopular war could wipe away much of the support service people and veterans currently enjoy. Most of the work in bridging the divide needs to be done by civilians, especially the educated elite in the top universities; their view of the military is often simplistic to the point of being childish. Our side can help too, though. When civvies, as you dumb things try not to be too frustrated, take a few minutes to explain things. The fact is most of them are on your side; all you have to do is remind them that you’re just like them, except with a uniform.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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