But it also underscores the isolation of the military from the rest of society. Increasingly, it seems, America is divided between the vast majority who do not serve and the tiny minority who do. The shared sacrifice of World War II is but a distant memory. During World War II, 6 percent of Americans were in uniform; today, the Pentagon says, the figure is four tenths of 1 percent. On military bases, wives warily watch for a pair of somber-faced officers emerging from a car, a sign that bad news is about to arrive at the front door. At military hospitals, young men and women missing limbs are an increasingly familiar sight. But for the rest of us, going about our daily lives, it can be hard to tell there’s a war on.
Soldiers are widely honored, not scorned as they were during Vietnam. But mothers, horrified by grisly TV images, do not want their children to join up. Since February, the Army—Regular, Reserves and National Guard—has been missing its monthly recruiting goals by as much as 42 percent. On the other hand, *re-*enlistment rates are up, especially for those serving in combat arms in Iraq. Incongruous as it may seem for the millions whose closest brush with battle is on cable, soldiers and Marines on the front line are proud to be there and willing to serve again.