National Security

Memorial Day 2013: The Distance Between Those Who Serve and the General Public

May 24, 2013

As we observe Memorial Day, American troops continue to wage war and make sacrifices around the world. Last summer at the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen spoke about the proverbial distance between those serving in the military and the rest of the American public. “[The military is] less than 1% of the population,” he said. “We come from fewer and fewer places, and the American people don’t know us.”

Particularly with this low level of American participation in the armed services, the importance of honoring those who do serve and sacrifice is that much greater. For his part, Mullen expressed concern that if this insufficient rate continues, Americans won’t have enough of a stake in their own military’s actions to advocate for how—and if—it should be deployed.

Watch Admiral Mullen’s full conversation with NPR’s Steve Inskeep on what it means for the US to be a military superpower.