The American military has been variously viewed. It is seen as a form of national service, an occupation, a profession, a workplace, a calling, an industry, and a set of internal labor markets. Military service has touched most Americans; nearly 26 million Americans living today have served in the military— 24 million of these veterans are men, 12 million are over the of age 60. But today’s active-duty military is very different from the military of 30 and 50 years ago, when the military relied on the draft for personnel and warfare required more troops.
The All-Volunteer military is more educated, more married, more female, and less white than the draft-era military. (Segal & Segal, 2004) The Constitution of the United States does not address military conscription. Compulsory military service is addressed in the Military Selective Service Act, which requires all males between the age of 18 and 26 to register for compulsory military service. The US Congress has the right to introduce compulsory military service for those registered if they think the national security necessitates forces greater than the regular armed forces.
While military service presently is voluntary, all 18-year-old youth are required to register with the Selective Service System, the civilian agency charged with conducting a military draft when required by law. The Military Selective Service Act provides for military conscription. (War Resisters, 2006) A social institution can be defined as “greedy” when it seeks commitment, time, and energy and limits the participants’ other roles. As an institution the military and their families the world over qualify as “greedy institutions.
” The military’s distinct lifestyle affects service members and their families—especially their spouses and children. Some civilian occupations share similar lifestyle aspects: Police work and mining are dangerous, for example, corporate executives move often, physicians are on call even when at home, and professors work long hours. But the armed forces are unique in that career military personnel are likely to experience all these demands simultaneously.
There are also benefits to a military occupation: financial benefits, job security, access to medical care, discount shopping on post, a sense of belonging and community (with social support during times of stress), and pride in contributing to national security. But the demands of the military life affect the quality of family life; and family experiences affect service members’ commitment to the military wartime, but also in training exercises and the operation of military equipment.
More than 3,240 Americans deployed since September 11, 2001 have been killed and over 23,000 have returned from the combat zone with physical wounds and a range of permanent disabilities (e. g. , traumatic brain injury). In addition to these physical wounds, as many as one-fourth of all armed forces personnel returning from active duty are struggling with less visible psychological injuries. A majority of those deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan report exposure to multiple life-changing stressors, and their combat experiences often challenge their ability to easily reintegrate into the military and society following deployment.