A big reason for the divide is the oft-quoted statistic – particularly among troops – that less than 1 percent of Americans currently serve in the military. More precisely, during this decade of sustained warfare, only about half a percent of the US public has been on active duty at any given time. (At the height of World War II, the comparable figure was 9 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.)
In a survey released in May by Blue Star Families, a military advocacy group, an overwhelming majority of the 4,200 military respondents and their loved ones – 95 percent – said they agreed with the statement that most Americans “do not truly understand or appreciate the sacrifices made by the service members and their families.”
Another 40 percent said that their community “did not embrace opportunities to help military children.”
The anniversary of the 9/11 attacks offers an opportunity for Americans to reach out to military service members, and that is very much appreciated, says Vivian Greentree, the director of research and policy at Blue Star Families. But the message doesn't always get through to those who need it, she adds.
“It’s important to be reflective, but it’s even more important to take action,” she says.
For example, Rebekah Sanderlin, whose Army husband is stationed at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C., recalls going to a concert in Nashville, Tenn., with her mom last year. The stadiumgoers got on their feet to cheer the troops. “I just started crying, and my mom couldn’t understand why. She said, ‘They do this all the time.’ ”