By Daniel Briggs
I have to make a confession at the outset: Too often, I correlate Memorial Day with sales on grills and outdoor furniture. Shame on me. And if I, as a veteran, give barely a perfunctory nod of the head to this important holiday, am I alone? Or are my apathy and ignorance representative of more of the American public than any of us wants to admit?
Let’s take a look at the numbers.
75. The average percentage of the public’s confidence in the military from Gallup polls since 9/11. During that same time period, the Supreme Court received a thumbs-up from an average of 39% of the public while Congress earned just over 17% of confidence.
Americans overwhelmingly support the military. But how well do they understand it? And how effectively can they or their leaders support something they do not understand? With its unique culture running parallel to but apart from civilian society, the military has become more and more of an unknown entity. It starts with the fact that only a sliver (less than 1%) of Americans currently serve. By way of comparison, nearly 12% of the population served during the Second World War. And as more and more of our political leaders have not served, policy decisions impacting the military may be important, but they affect someone else, somewhere else. Even the most well-meaning politicians are not immune from this mindset, when their decisions do not directly affect them.
The growing military-civilian divide directly affects our service members as well. Military values like sacrifice and “service before self” are admirable but not absolute. They are too easily taken to an extreme, where service members believe they must lose their identity to serve their country. For example, military members often believe political discussions are off limits. Others mistakenly conclude that, outside both the walls of the sanctuary and the confines of one’s mind, religion is absolutely forbidden, regardless of setting or context. The military is a unique environment where individual interests sometimes yield to the interests of the larger military community. But some freedoms are fundamental, as part and parcel of human existence as the act of breathing. Religious freedom, guaranteed by the first words of the First Amendment, is one such fundamental freedom. It is truly our first freedom. And at Alliance Defending Freedom, we work aggressively to educate, equip, and empower service members at all levels to live out their faith while in uniform.
On this Memorial Day, let’s take a moment to honor those who have died in service to this country. Let’s commit to actively bridge the military-civilian divide. And then, let’s fire up the grill!