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Ponder the Rewards of Military Service
Pedestrians watch the 100th annual Veterans Day parade in New York, Nov. 11, 2019.

Ponder the Rewards of Military Service

H.R. McMaster

Fewer and fewer Americans are connected to the country’s all-volunteer professional military. The military’s separation from society is consequential. In a democracy, if citizens don’t understand the military, they won’t support the policies and investments necessary to secure the nation.

Veterans Day is an opportunity to consider what compels servicemen and -women to act courageously, endure hardships, take risks and make sacrifices. For many Americans it is easy to imagine the hardships associated with military service, such as long separations from family or arduous conditions. It is more difficult to understand the less tangible rewards of service.

One reward of service is being part of a community that sustains itself through an ethos that binds warriors to one another. That covenant is based on honor, duty, courage, loyalty and self-sacrifice. An effective military unit takes on the qualities of a family, in which the man or woman next to you is willing to give everything, even his or her own life, for you. Many veterans miss that military family when they rejoin civilian life. As the psychiatrist and author Jonathan Shay has noted, “what a returning soldier needs most when leaving war” is “a living community to whom his experience matters.”

Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal

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