THANKS OR PITY? HOW ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT VETERANS WIDEN THE CIVIL-MILITARY GAP

By MARISSA CRUZ LEMAR: For Entire Post, Go Here…

The texts and notifications start early on Veterans Day. Friends and family send me messages laced with flag emojis and tag me in various patriotic memes on Facebook thanking me for my service. It’s kind, and I always appreciate the thought. But it also feels awkward to be lumped together with all veterans, as if all of our experiences are the same.

Every Veterans Day, Americans honor those who have served in our nation’s armed forces. And every year assumptions about veterans reemerge, casting all veterans into a similar mold regarding their motivations and reasons for joining. While this may seem innocuous enough, to make such assumptions only furthers the civil-military divide in American society.

People assume many things about those who choose to serve in the military. One common assumption is that those who serve do so only because they have no other options available to them. A related misconception is that servicemembers come disproportionately from economically disadvantaged areas. An even more pernicious extension of this is that the military actively preys upon those of low socioeconomic status. The actual demographics of the armed forces tell a markedly different story, though.

A report published in the Journal of Strategic Studies in early 2020 disproves the hypothesis that those who join lack other options. On average, military personnel perform the same or slightly better than the civilian population when comparing cognitive abilities. The report cites technological, tactical, operational, and doctrinal changes across the military that have led to a change in the types of personnel in demand. Put simply, the services attract talented people, in competition with the civilian job market, to meet the needs of the changing landscape of the military. The military is also overwhelmingly made up of middle-class recruits. The Journal of Strategic Studies report more specifically shows that recruits are most likely to come from families in the middle of the wealth distribution, with median wealth of $87,000. In fact, the middle three quintiles for household income are overrepresented among military recruits — they are mostly middle class.

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