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Monday, August 20, 2012

Gen Petraeus About Our Military Today

Thanks to my fellow veterans:

I remember the day I found out I got into West Point. My mom actually showed up in the hallway of my high school and waited for me to get out of class. She was bawling her eyes out and apologizing that she had opened up my admission letter. She wasn't crying because it had been her dream for me to go there. She was crying because she knew how hard I'd worked to get in, how much I wanted to attend, and how much I wanted to be an infantry officer.

I was going to get that opportunity. That same day two of my teachers took me aside and essentially told me the following:

“David, you're a smart guy. You don't have to join the military. You should go to college, instead.”

I could easily write a theme defending West Point and the military as I did that day, explaining that USMA is an elite institution, that separate from that it is actually statistically much harder to enlist in the military than it is to get admitted to college, that serving the nation is a challenge that all able-bodied men should at least consider for a host of reasons, but I won't.

What I will say is that when a 16 year-old kid is being told that attending West Point is going to be bad for his future then there is a dangerous disconnect in America, and entirely too many Americans have no idea what kind of burdens our military is bearing.

In World War II, 11.2% of the nation served in four (4) years.

During the Vietnam era, 4.3% served in twelve (12) years.

Since 2001, only 0.45% of our population has served in the Global War on Terror.

These are unbelievable statistics. Over time, fewer and fewer people have shouldered more and more of the burden and it is only getting worse.

Our troops were sent to war in Iraq by a Congress consisting of 10% veterans with only one person having a child in the military. Taxes did not increase to pay for the war. War bonds were not sold. Gas was not regulated. In fact, the average citizen was asked to sacrifice nothing, and has sacrificed nothing unless they have chosen to out of the goodness of their hearts.

The only people who have sacrificed are the veterans and their families. The volunteers. The people who swore an oath to defend this nation. You stand there, deployment after deployment and fight on. You've lost relationships, spent years of your lives in extreme conditions, years apart from kids you'll never get back, and beaten your body in a way that even professional athletes don't understand.

Then you come home to a nation that doesn't understand. They don't understand suffering. They don't understand sacrifice. They don't understand why we fight for them. They don't understand that bad people exist. They look at you like you're a machine - like something is wrong with you. You are the misguided one - not them.
When you get out, you sit in the college classrooms with political science teachers that discount your opinions on Iraq and Afghanistan because YOU WERE THERE and can't understand the macro issues they gathered from books, because of your bias.

You watch TV shows where every vet has PTSD and the violent strain at that. Your Congress is debating your benefits, your retirement, and your pay, while they ask you to do more. But the amazing thing about you is that you all know this. You know your country will never pay back what you've given up. You know that the populace at large will never truly understand or appreciate what you have done for them. Hell, you know that in some circles, you will be thought as less than normal for having worn the uniform. But you do it anyway.

You do what the greatest men and women of this country have done since 1775. YOU SERVED. Just that decision alone makes you part of an elite group.

“Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.” -Winston Churchill- Thank you to the 11.2% and 4.3% who have served and thanks to the 0.45% who continue to serve our Nation.

General David Petraeus
West Point Class 1974

"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But the U.S. ARMED FORCES don't have that problem."
R. Reagan


Anonymous said...

Military personal!..... I wonder about sometimes. I like the ones that that make their troops march row after row into the enemy lines. As if their trying to make the other side use up all their bullets. I don't know maybe it's me. Somehow that don't seem very smart.

Anonymous said...

General,from an older Vet, you couldn't have said it any better. Do you think your President understands what you said? After all, he wanted Vets to pay for their own health care.

Anonymous said...

10;37 Great comment!!?? The intelligence in it "that don't seem very smart" speaks volumes.
March in rows?? No rows aboard ship!! We took a solumn pledge to support and protect this great country as a duty with no guaranteed rewards.What have you done for your country except to be able to run your diarhetic mouth. You do not have the guts to step into the shoes of any VETERAN. Let me know and we'll meet you in front of the GOB.

Anonymous said...

I have a question:

What are these soldiers defending us against? The USA has no threat. We are the strongest nation in the world, there is absolutely no reason for us to be invading any country. We should be 50x more worried about our own.

So why are they regarded as heroes who give great sacrifice? They know exactly what they are getting themselves into. They signed up for the pointless war that we are in and they knew once they signed up that their life was being put on the line for absolutely no reason at all.

Its sad really, that we are at war, wasting american lives... for nothing. There is literally no reason for us to be over there. Or anywhere for that matter.

Unfortunately, I cannot regard active military personnel as heroes. Are some of them actual heroes who have made great sacrifices? Yes, of course. But to call every single american soldier a "hero" or a "selfless person" is just ignorant. Most people sign up because its tax free pay(when deployed), free schooling after 4 years and because its a job that never stops hiring. Most dont do it to protect us, because they are not protecting us from anything. They are just adding to the war mongering that our country continues to adhere to.

lmclain said...

11:37 is SO misinformed and uneducated, he should stick to video games. Although the General is to be commended for his service, might the lack of participation in military service coincide with the disillusionment of Americans over the integrity of the "leaders"?? No one could deny the threat to world order & peace in WWI & WWII. Not so much in Vietnam (remember the "domino theory"?), where we fought for YEARS, lost 55,000 of America's finest, were literally RUN out of that country (but it was SO IMPORTANT for us to whip that third world country!) and now we buy furniture from them! Now, we have 12 years in ANOTHER third world country, getting run out AGAIN and accomplished nothing except making some American CEO's richer than kings. Knowing what I know now, I would NEVER let my sons or daughters become pawns in some politician's (who, himself, never even picked up a gun in his LIFE) desire to show he is a "war president". I'm glad he's proud. He has an accomplished record, but my kid ain't coming home without legs, arms, eyes, or in a box, because GE, or Haliburton, or some slick politician wants him to go fight the latest "boogeyman". If we are going to war, then DESTROY things. Kill people. Decimate the enemy. But don't try to fight without hurting anyone's feelings, or offending any group, or going into hand-wringing frenzy because a kid got killed IN A WAR ZONE. We don't have soldiers anymore, we have targets and political theatre. When we make having a war with the USA the VERY WORST THING a country could ask for, then - and only then - I send my kids. But NOT so that some CEO can buy another vacation home in Aspen with his stock option, while he "honors the sacrifice" of soldiers. Let HIM sacrifice SOMETHING. Anything.

Anonymous said...

12:37-Thanks for clarifying that.I agree 100%.I respect the sacrifice made by those who died for our country,but rarely could any actually tell you specifically why they were fighting.Subsequent commentors will beat me up for this,but truly legit reasons are hard to produce.

Anonymous said...

I served for 23 years for the promised health care for life and promised pension for life. Two non-volunteer tours in RVN, 18 hour days for four years as drill sgt and 1st Sgt, covert assignments in 3d world countries - and my primary reason was not patriotism but future benefits.

Anonymous said...

So sad that this country, and it's people, have no pride and honor.

I was proud to wear the uniform, until I got back to the National Guard unit in Salisbury and found out what a joke it was.

Is this country even worth saving?

byhisgrace said...

Freedom is not free. America may not be a perfect country, but tell me why so many have risked their lives to get here year after year?

If someone wants to risk their life for benefits, so be it. Did you do your job and do it well? You earned your benefits…

Trying to get Muslims to practice democracy is futile effort. Islam by design is a totalitarian government dictating every aspect of a believer's life. Islam and the West are incompatible. SO get us out. Our men and women…a topic for another time, are not properly armed and the ROE are killing them.

We are living in the most dangerous time in history, facing a relentless enemy who wants to re establish their caliphate and rule the world via sharia law. And who is running this country?

People who do not have the best interests for America. When the sheet hits the fan, as it most certainly will, we will not be prepared….because of the idiotic people who want freedom but will not die to keep it.

They will convert to Islam and pay heavy tax. And hope they will be able to live…see Egypt and the other muslims countries and the burring of churches and slaughter of Christians going on…

Yeah speak ill of our military.

Anonymous said...

GEN Petraeus was absolutely correct - most Americans just don't understand why Soldiers serve. They do it out of pride, honor and love for this great nation. ByHisGrace seems to have a clue, but the rest still don't get it and have no sense of duty or obligation to the country. How do you think you enjoy the freedoms that you have? I will tell you ... it is the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guard, Homeland Security and scores of other brave young men and women who defend YOUR RIGHT to say stupid things and live in ignorance. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to those who served in the past and those who serve today. We should all thank God and our military forces for our freedom and pray for them and their families over the holiday season while we sit home and spend time with our loved ones ... think about it.

- Mark W
Sierra Vista, AZ

Anonymous said...

If a sovereign nation has weapons of mass destruction then any and all other sovereign nations of the world should use whatever means necessary to neutralize the threat. Such weapons shall not be tolerated. The nation possessing such weapons shall be thoroughly bombed into oblivion and all it's people killed.

Of course there is one nation that has more weapons of mass destruction than any other. It has nuclear weapons which it has used before. It has chemical and biological weapons as well. It is an aggressive nation that has invaded many other nations. It must be destroyed immediately.

But of course many Americans don't even know which nation is such a threat to the rest of the world. They need to look into the mirror for the great United States of America is the threatening nation which possesses nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons of mass destruction and flaunts its power all around the world all in the name of freedom. And of course the freedom is not free. Many people have sacrificed their lives for freedom. The US has used its mighty powers to sacrifice the lives of many all over the world.

The US must be destroyed immediately by whatever means necessary.

Alternatively, we could mind our own business and stay out of the affairs of other sovereign nations.

Anonymous said...

I just became aware of this article and took a look at the comments.
First, if the commenter that said he spent 2 tours in the Republic of Vietnam actually DID spend those tours he would be eligible for medical treatment at the VA if he was honorably discharged. He has to be able to prove his duty in country which should be on his DD214.
To commenter that said we were run out of Vietnam that is just plain BS. That great military tactician Lyndon Johnson, who was as successful as Adolf Hitler, along with Congressional leaders like that idiot Ted Kennedy, lost the war not the American soldier. The expansion of Communism was stopped after Vietnam which ended the Domino Effect that Kennedy was concerned about in Southeast Asia.
The GI Bill of WWII has become a recruitment tool. We have ended the draft and the necessity to rely on volunteers means benefits are necessary to find the help. If you think that's wrong then go back to the draft. So far recruitment has not been a problem.

Anonymous said...

If the draft returns it will include women. I'd rather have an armed force that volunteers rather than the male sluggards that would be among the draftees. Do any of you want your sisters, daughters or other women to be drafted? I think not.
Our military is capable when allowed to be but the leaders in Washington place ridiculous regulations on them, i.e., Rules of Engagement.

BG (ret.) Gary Jones said...

Thank you, General Petraeus, for saying it so well. As a Navy veteran who served 4 years active and 2 in the reserves during Vietnam and then served 31 years in the Army National Guard, I honor and respect the sacrifices our military members make so that people are free to say stupid things without reprisal. My father was a veteran of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. He wasn't drafted. I wasn't either, but the military gave me an opportunity to rise from E-1 to BG. While serving all over the world, I missed kids' ballgames, school programs and countless home emergencies. I served in some real desolate situations but I would gladly do it all over again. Today's soldiers serve voluntarily and place themselves in harm's way without the necessity of a draft. They are motivated by the same motivations that have sustained our country for almost 250 years and they will continue to do so. I respect, honor, and, most importantly salute them and you. Thank all of you for your service.

Greg Embrey said...


Anonymous said...

Hey 12:37 and 1:29 - precisely - Precisely why people like you don't get it. Your selfish and look for the quick fix and only think of yourself rather than doing something greater than yourself.

12:37 . who said every Mil personnel is a hero - none in the article,. As a former USAF on a combat crew (in know you only think that Army and Marines are in combat) every one of the military are heroes regardless if they are pounding the ground or pushing a pencil, they all contribute back far greater than themselves. Further, as a business owner in technology / Procurement / distribution, I will look to hire a Vet first.

Why? for the obvious - Vets Know the mission and know how to get the job done.

Anonymous said...

General Petraeus Knows Obama better than most - what kind of person he really is, what he thinks, how he operates, how he intimidates everyone with threat of leaking NSA files, etc. So, when is he going to truly serve the nation by exposing who this guy (Obama) really is? Or does the general fear that the NSA has more than just details of an affair that Obama would then release to the public?

jimshaw54 said...

We need to re-institute the draft so that more Americans will find out that a military "gig" isn't a walk in the park -- for the one serving as well as his/her family. It should be made law that at least one half of all elected representatives have to be former military men or women. We need to take some of those "street toughs" off the street and put them in uniform and send them out to fight against a REAL enemy, instead of letting them bash innocent bystanders and call it a "game".

As someone who knows the sacrifice made by our military members I am proud to sign this post.