One statistic in the article stood out to me...
Wow, fewer than 1% of Americans serve. Thats amazing, I would expect the veteran population to be a much higher percentage due to these numbers seem to be based on troops actively serving, but still...less than 1%...thats staggering. No wonder that there is sometimes a disconnect between the military and civilians. Even after serving 21 years I am usually on the outside looking in at the military after being away for 3 years. The military is a constantly changing environment and its not surprising that many times service members reintegrating back into society after a tour overseas often have trouble adjusting. I mean how can you expect the average Joe on the street to relate to your experiences with 99% of them have not gone through them?
"Fewer than 1% of Americans serve in the military today, compared to 4% who served in Vietnam or 12% in World War II."
It doesn't seem that long ago that I was one of those troops in the picture above traveling via the military leave system from one Airport to another to get home for some R&R. You start out in Kuwait and fly chartered flights with other service members back to the states (stopping somewhere in Europe on the way...Germany in my case) to a civilian airport, at which time you are tossed back among the "regular folk" and are then assigned your individual flight back home. The flight to the states is long and fatiguing in and of itself. The crews are super nice, feed you well and do everything they can to make you comfortable - but the act of being confined to a chair that long along with the military BS you put up with just to get in the damn plane (can I get another roll call please?) just wear your down.
I had a safe job over there in a relatively safe place and just had normal family reunion issues to deal with. A lot of the folks I flew with were in combat less than 72 hours before they touched down...talk about decompressing! Going from dodging IED's suicide bombers and snipers in Baghdad to dodging civilians in an airport looking at you like an animal that escaped from the zoo is almost laughable. Well, at least they used to look at you, I came home for R&R in '07, the article indicates that seeing troops in the airport is becoming "the norm" and is not as unusual as before. Still, glad to see the clapping is still going on...it was en vogue before that Budweiser commercial hit the airwaves.
The thing I remember most was at one point having someone from the USO call out a bunch of our names and putting us in a line with a volunteer at the front with a sign and flag announcing us as returning service members and being marched through the center of the airport with people clapping (like in the picture above). Once we got to the office we were going to, they gave us our tickets and paperwork and then sent us back to the same office that we came from. This time instead of marching in a line you walked either by yourself or maybe in a small group to the USO lounge, past the same areas and people that clapped for you a few minutes before, but without any fanfare this time. It seems that sign and flag were the cue card for applause for the studio audience... It was cool though, some guy bought me and my travel buddy a drink (even though "officially" GO1* was still in effect) and we got our first good meal in months there!
Just a reminder, thank a soldier, marine, sailor, zoomie or other service member!
*GO1 ~ General Order #1...the "no fun" order in affect in all theaters covered under CENTCOM, basically..no booze, no porn, no sex....it supposedly covered all service members from the time they left theater to when they got off the plane at their home.