Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sacrifices of the few

This is a point I've been making repeatedly in my classroom. What are Americans in general sacrificing for the "war on terror" that they believe to be so important? My students immediately answer, "Nothing." Americans are not rationing and recycling as they did during WWII (in fact instead of rationing fuel as Americans did during WWII, Americans are whining about gas prices being too high). They are not willing to pay taxes to make sure that soldiers have the armor they deserve to protect themselves. People are not signing up for the armed forces (this especially says something about how important they thing the war in Iraq really is) in large numbers.

The people in the military are starting to clue in. They suffer, and the general public does nothing.

All those "Support our Troops" magnets you see on the back of cars- empty verbiage.

War's impact at home falls hard on relative few

Repeat deployments, extended tours add uncertainty to hardship of service

Their stories put a human face on stark statistics showing that the U.S. military — a small force by historical standards — is stretched thin after more than four years in Iraq and six in Afghanistan. Repeated deployments of active military members and reservists and diminishing "dwell times" between postings to the war zone have taxed soldiers and taken a growing toll on the home front.

"Families are truly exhausted," says Patricia Barron, who runs youth programs for the National Military Families Association. "They are starting to feel the stresses of separation more acutely."

Indeed, the whole approach to providing manpower for this conflict differs from that of the Vietnam War, from 1964-1975. Then, a much larger active military — 8.7 million troops — was bolstered by a draft that added 1.7 million more soldiers to the ranks, according to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. More than 640,000 of the draftees served in Vietnam, constituting about one-quarter of the total U.S. force there, the VFW said.

But the draft ended in 1973, and the active military now numbers about 1.4 million, according to the Department of Defense.

In order to sustain troop levels in what has become a much more prolonged conflict than originally anticipated, the military has relied on repeated deployments, and a far heavier use of "weekend warriors." More than 434,000 National Guard and Reserve members have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, about one-quarter of them more than once, according to the Pentagon. In comparison, about 340,000 Guard and Reserve troops were deployed during the Vietnam conflict.

The suicide rate among soldiers hit a 26-year high in 2006, according to a Pentagon report released in August

The report said the numbers suggest a correlation between suicide and the number of days served in Iraq or Afghanistan, though failed personal relationships and legal and financial problems also were identified as factors.

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