Part of what makes the U.S. military so effective is that it is made up of volunteers. Those who serve do so willingly and with great professionalism. They are patriotically motivated to sign up, even knowing the perils they may face in far-flung places.
But what makes it harder nowadays to appreciate fully the work of our men and women in uniform is that they represent an ever-smaller share of our total population.
Consider this: During World War II, nearly 10 percent of Americans served at least some period of time in active duty in the military. But during the past decade, not even 1 percent of the American people were on active duty at any given moment.
By no means are we suggesting that 10 percent of modern America's 310 million people should suddenly enlist. After all, we fortunately are not in a worldwide conflict on the scale of World War II.
But with such a small percentage of Americans in today's military, they simply are not as visible to the broader U.S. society as they once were. We know that they are fighting in dangerous locations such as Afghanistan, but many of us have few if any friends or family members who are personally involved. Therefore, we do not directly feel the loss when a soldier is killed or wounded.
We can never repay them for their service and sacrifice. But the least we can do is keep them at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers.